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Helicopter crash kills seven US soldiers in Iraq

The CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in southern Iraq, in what appears to have been an accident.

BAGHDAD // Seven American soldiers were killed in southern Iraq early today when their helicopter crashed as it was flying into the country from Kuwait, the US military said. The CH-47 Chinook helicopter did not come under attack, and the crash was an accident, a statement said. "At this time we are uncertain of the cause, but hostile fire has been ruled out," a military spokesman, Major John Hall said.

"The other three helicopters in the flight did not have incident or injury." The four-helicopter convoy was flying from Kuwait to the US military base at Balad north of Baghdad when the crash occurred shortly after midnight, in the desert about 100km west of Basra. The military said the seven who died were the only people on board. The Chinook, the Army's workhorse, is designed to transport troops and supplies to combat and other regions. The accident occurred in an area of Iraq that is under British military control, and a British quick reaction force and road convoy were dispatched to help American officials at the site.

An investigation into the cause of the crash is under way. It was the deadliest helicopter accident for US troops since Aug 22 2007, when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in northern Iraq, killing all 14 US soldiers aboard. The last accident that took this many lives was on Sept 10 2007, when seven American soldiers were killed in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad. "It is a tough day for the coalition and we are deeply saddened by the loss of our soldiers," said Col Bill Buckner, another military spokesman.

"Our prayers and condolences go out to the families during this difficult and tragic incident." The US military did not release the names of those killed pending notification of next of kin. Since the 2003 US-led war in Iraq, 4,168 members of the US military have been killed, according to one report.

Deadly violence continued in Iraq today. An explosives-laden car parked at a bus station in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah killed two people and wounded one, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. Nasiriyah is about 320km south-east of Baghdad. * AP

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