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Thursday, April 3

Friendly fire might have caused crash

By Alex Neill | Military Times

DOHA, Qatar - Military officials here at the war's command center acknowledged Thursday that friendly fire could have brought down one of two U.S. aircraft that crashed in Iraq this week.

Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told reporters that Iraqi surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles had been fired in the area where the a single-seat F/A-18C Hornet was flying when it was reported missing just before midnight April 2. Brooks, however, did not say specifically whether the plane had been hit by a coalition Patriot missile and added ``more examination'' had to be done.

Navy Capt. Frank Thorp, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said a Patriot missile fired by coalition forces was one of several possible causes of the plane's crash that will be examined.

``Patriot missile batteries had engaged the surface-to-surface missiles,'' Thorp said. He said the batteries were operated either by U.S. or Kuwaiti forces. He declined to say where the Hornet crashed. Published reports said it was on a bombing mission about 50 miles south of Baghdad.

Search-and-rescue operations began after the plane was reported missing. The pilot, who, officials would not identify, still was missing late Thursday.

Meanwhile, Brooks said enemy forces were not believed to have shot down an Army Black Hawk helicopter that crashed Wednesday west of Baghdad. Details of the incident remained sketchy.

``We don't think it was a result of hostile fire,'' Brooks said. He did not address whether friendly fire was a cause, but war command officials said there were no indications of missile launches or other such firings in the area. Other Army officials said the chopper clipped a sand dune while flying low near a lake west of Baghdad.

Brooks would not say how many soldiers were aboard the Black Hawk, but noted there were ``some casualties.'' Officials in Washington said seven soldiers were killed and four wounded and rescued. They have not been identified.