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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 16:08 GMT
Iraq downs US helicopter
The helicopter
Iraqis have gathered around the helicopter
The United States military has confirmed that one of its Apache helicopters has come down in Iraq.

Iraqi television showed pictures of the helicopter, which it said was shot down near the city of Karbala, 110 kilometres (70 miles) south-west of Baghdad.

A pilot from the US Army Fifth Corps 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment reportedly said his unit hit a "hornet's nest, a barrage of anti-aircraft fire".

A correspondent for the US television network CNN travelling with the division said he had seen between 10 and 30 bullet holes in the helicopters involved.

The personnel had come back "feeling surprised, dazed, stunned somewhat," he said.

'Brave peasants'

Iraq's Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said: "A small number of peasants - brave peasants - shot down two Apaches".

US defence officials refused to comment on the claim that a second helicopter had been shot down.

The downed helicopter
The pilots are reportedly being held captive

Iraqi television showed images of Iraqis waving guns in the air and dancing around the helicopter which appeared to be intact.

Two helmets were shown at the scene but there was no apparent sign of the crew.

Five US military personnel taken prisoners of war have already been paraded on Iraqi television.

Britain and the US have condemned the showing of the pictures, which they say breach the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.

But Mr Saeed al-Sahhaf said Iraq may well show pictures of the pilots captured on Monday.

"They are supporting the criminals, the Zionist regime, and they are talking about the Geneva Convention, so we will continue showing whichever mercenaries fall into our hands," the minister said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley
"The crew of the Apache are thought to be prisoners of war"



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