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A Marine helicopter that crashed last week northwest of Baghdad was shot down, the U.S. military announced Wednesday, contradicting earlier speculation that it had crashed due to mechanical problems.

The Marine CH-46 Sea Knight went down Feb. 7 about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing all seven passengers.

A terrorist group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for shooting it down and later released a video it asserted supported its claim.

After an investigation, officials from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) determined that the helicopter was brought down by “anti-aircraft munitions.”

“Initial evidence indicated that the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter went down as a result of mechanical failure,” Maj. Jeff Pool, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-West, was quoted as saying in a news release. “After further investigation using all available means, the cause of the incident has been confirmed to be hostile fire.”

Pilots of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter that was escorting the CH-46 troop-transport when it was shot down did not see the attack, but they saw that the Sea Knight was on fire and witnessed its descent and crash, the release said.

The initial signs resembled fires that have occurred aboard Sea Knight helicopters experiencing mechanical difficulties in the past, the release added.

It also said that after removing the remains of the dead troops and salvaging some equipment, the crash site was blown up to prevent the enemy from getting anything useful from the wreckage.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these fallen servicemembers,” Pool said. “All available resources are dedicated to eliminating the threat to our aircraft so that we can continue to provide the support to our ground forces.”

The release said the military would not discuss enemy capabilities or the tactics U.S. troops are using to counter them because of concerns for the safety of coalition forces.

Military officials have confirmed five U.S. military helicopters have been shot down since Jan. 20.


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