Wednesday, April 5, 2006

u.s. body from crash dragged ...

Video Purportedly Shows Insurgents Dragging Burning Body Of U.S. Helicopter Pilot
April 5, 2006, The Associated Press

(BAGHDAD, Iraq) --
A video posted on the Internet Wednesday in the name of an extremist group claimed to show Iraqi insurgents dragging the burning body of a U.S. pilot on the ground after the crash of an Apache helicopter.

Parts of the AP video were blurry, and the face of the man being dragged was not shown. His clothes were so tattered it was impossible to tell if he was wearing an American military uniform, but he appeared to be wearing military fatigues.

The U.S. military condemned the posting and said that although reports of a Web site video "suggest that terrorists removed part of a body from the crash site, the authenticity of the video cannot be confirmed."

"We are outraged that anyone would create and publish such a despicable video for public exposure," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington said.

The video, posted by a group calling itself the Shura Council of Mujahedeen, claimed that its military wing had shot down the craft, which the U.S. military said went down Saturday.

According to statements on Islamist Web sites, the Mujahedeen Shura Council was organized in January to consolidate al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups. The move was seen as an effort by insurgents to lower the profile of al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, whose mass attacks against Shiite civilians have tarnished the image of the insurgents among many Iraqis.

The video was blurry but the helicopter could be seen clearly. It showed the outlines of the craft's destroyed blades and blood on various jagged pieces of wreckage spread over a field. However, it was not possible to see if the helicopter had U.S. markings.

The video also clearly showed the bloodied, burning body of a man being dragged by several other men through a field. Before the body was moved, the camera zoomed in on what appeared to be his waistline, which showed a scrap of underwear with the brand name "Hanes" on it. The man also appeared to be wearing some type of camouflage fatigues.

In its statement, the U.S. military said it confirmed the two pilots had died, and it had recovered "all available remains found on the scene, given the catastrophic nature of the crash."

The AH-64D Apache Longbow crashed about 5:30 p.m. Saturday due to possible hostile fire west of Youssifiyah while conducting a combat air patrol, the military said. Youssifiyah is about 10 miles southwest of Baghdad.

About 24 hours later, the military said the pilots were "presumed dead" and that recovery efforts were under way, indicating they had not fully secured the site or retrieved the bodies.

Youssifiyah is located in the "triangle of death," a religiously mixed area notorious for attacks by Sunni extremists against Shiites traveling between Baghdad and religious shrines south of the capital.

The Albany (N.Y.) Times Union reported that Capt. Timothy Moshier, 25, of Bethlehem, N.Y., was killed Saturday when the Apache helicopter he was piloting crashed about the same time and place southwest of Baghdad. His survivors include his wife, Katherine, and their 10-month-old daughter, Natalie, the newspaper said.

In political developments, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said he is refusing to abandon his bid for a second term to break the deadlock over a new government, and more than 1,000 of his
supporters rallied in the holy city of Karbala, urging an end to "U.S. interference" in Iraqi politics.

Although parliament may have to decide al-Jaafari's future, Shiite officials said they are reluctant until there is a comprehensive deal among all ethnic- and religious-based parties, including an agreement on who will be the new president.

That indicated little progress has been made in resolving the standoff since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw flew to Baghdad last weekend and insisted that Iraqis agree on a new leadership quickly.

U.S. officials believe a broad-based government of Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds offers the only hope for reversing Iraq's slide into anarchy. Without such a government, the Americans cannot begin withdrawing troops.

Talks on a unity government stalled after Sunni Arab and Kurdish officials said they would not accept al-Jaafari, who won the nomination of the dominant Shiite bloc in balloting among Shiite lawmakers in February.

Al-Jaafari told The Guardian newspaper that he was rejecting calls to give up the nomination of his Shiite bloc "to protect democracy in Iraq."

"There is a decision that was reached by a democratic mechanism and I stand with it," he said. "We have to respect our Iraqi people."

Al-Jaafari added that the Iraqi people "will react if they see the rules of democracy being disobeyed. Everyone should stick to democratic mechanisms no matter whether they disagree with the person."

During an interview Tuesday with the BBC, Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi said he met with al-Jaafari and urged him to give up the nomination to break the logjam. But Abdul-Mahdi said al-Jaafari refused, insisting he wanted to take his case to parliament, which must approve the prime minister and Cabinet by a majority vote.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and an al-Jaafari opponent, referred to the parliamentary option in an interview published Wednesday by the Saudi daily Al Madina.

"Consultations are taking place quickly," Talabani said. "We hope they will not take much longer than this, and if the (Shiites) stick by their stand on nominating Ibrahim al-Jaafari, then we will resort to parliament."

However, it was unclear how parliament could resolve the standoff. The constitution says the president must nominate the candidate of the largest bloc -- the Shiites. The prime minister-designate then presents his Cabinet to parliament for approval by a majority of all 275 members.

Under the constitution, however, parliament must first elect a new president and two vice presidents by a two-thirds vote. With Talabani's term also ending, it is unclear whether he would have the authority to appoint a prime minister, and the Shiites could block his re-election.