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Helicopters Crash; Attacks on Zarqawi Network Continue

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2004 – Two U.S. Army pilots were killed when two cargo helicopters crashed Oct. 16 in southwest Baghdad, Iraq, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported.

The pilots were assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. Two other soldiers were injured in the incident and were taken to a medical facility. No report on their condition was available. The incident is under investigation.

Meanwhile, U.S. jets blasted a checkpoint operated by the Tawhid and Jihad terror movement of the fugitive Jordanian-born terrorist Muqtada al-Zarqawi in the Jolan district of Fallujah, Iraq, Oct. 16.

Officials said the terrorists operating the illegal checkpoint were heavily armed and were using the blockade to disrupt traffic, intimidate and harass local citizens, and interrogate and detain local civilians. Consisting of complex barriers, the checkpoint was considered key to the Zarqawi network's ability to control movement into and out of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. Fallujah is considered the toughest stronghold of insurgents.

Informants have linked this and other checkpoints to kidnappings and executions conducted in the Fallujah area, according to multiple intelligence reports, Multinational Force Iraq officials said. On Oct. 14, multinational forces destroyed two other major checkpoints.

Officials noted that the latest strike continues the coalition's intensive campaign against foreign terrorists in the Fallujah area. Iraqi special forces and elements of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force formed a "dynamic cordon" around the city on the morning of Oct. 15. The cordon consists of vehicle control points aimed at disrupting freedom of movement by fleeing anti-Iraqi forces, officials said.

Since Oct. 14, the Multinational Force has struck numerous Zarqawi network locations, including safe houses, training locations, a command and control planning center, and a weapons storage site, officials said. In the last month, the coalition has also struck large stockpiles of illegal explosives, including those used to build car bombs. The operations have netted numerous Zarqawi operatives, officials said.

Near Tikrit, about 90 miles north of Baghdad, 1st Infantry Division soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment detained three people early this morning. The three men reportedly ran across a road carrying a shovel and an AK-47 assault rifle. The soldiers followed them to a house, where they were detained and three rifles were confiscated. The patrol is searching the area for possible improvised explosive devices.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq
1st Cavalry Division
1st Marine Expeditionary Force
1st Infantry Division
1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment

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