Al-Qaida-linked insurgents post video said to show downing of U.S helicopter in Iraq

Friday, February 9th 2007, 3:35 pm
By: News On 6

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ An Al-Qaida-linked insurgent gro up posted a Web video Friday showing what it said was the downing of a U.S. military helicopter earlier this week. Seven Americans were killed in the crash.

The U.S. military has said it did not believe the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter was shot down in the crash Wednesday northwest of Baghdad.

The two-minute video _ which says it shows the ``downing of U.S. aircraft on Feb. 7'' _ shows a helicopter that appears to be a Sea Knight flying. An object trailing smoke is seen in the sky nearby, and then the craft bursts into orange and red flames, with a spray of debris emerging from it.

It is not clear whether the object is a rocket, and it cannot be clearly seen connecting with the craft. In the footage, the helicopter heads downward, but appears to be at least partially in control, though smoke and bright flames are trailing from it. The helicopter then disappears behind a line of trees as it hits the ground.

The video was issued by the Islamic State in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iraqi insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq. The group on Wednesday issued a written claim of responsibility for the craft's downing and had promised a video would follow.

The video, titled ``the Hell of Christians and Apostates in Iraq,'' was posted on a Web forum where the group and other Islamic militants often post messages. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed.

U.S. Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, chief operations officer for the Joint Staff, suggested the claim may not be authentic.

``This enemy is very astute in the use of the media. He has in the past had a pattern of posting things on the Web sites and claiming responsibilty for attacks that did or did not occur,'' Lute said at a Pentagon news conference. ``I'd be very cautious about drawing conclusions from things that are posted on the Internet.''

He said ``there are some eyewitness accounts that cause professional aviation officers to believe it (the cause of the crash) was most likely ... mechanical.''

A U.S. official, who was not authorized to address the topic publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said: ``the video appears to be legitimate.''

It was posted on the al-Furqan Web site, which is the official site of the Islamic State in Iraq organization. The official said that the group has posted videos of attacks on helicopters at least twice before; it has also posted videos of attacks on trucks. The official did not elaborate.