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Two of the victims of Wednesday’s crash of a Marine Corps CH-46 helicopter in Iraq have been identified by the Pentagon as Navy corpsmen.

Petty Officer 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr., 31, of El Paso, Texas, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Manuel A. Ruiz, 21, of Federalsburg, Md., were killed in the crash, the cause of which is still under investigation.

Minjares was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Cherry Point, N.C. Ruiz was assigned to 2nd Medical Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Ruiz, 21, was on the second week of his second Iraq tour when he was among seven servicemembers killed in the crash west of Baghdad. The crash was the fourth American military helicopter to go down since Jan. 20. While the other three were shot down, U.S. military officials have said enemy fire was not likely the cause of Wednesday’s crash.

The five other casualties of the crash were Marines, a military official said Friday.

Family members remembered Ruiz as “Little Manuel” — named after his father — and an energetic, fun young man.

Ruiz was committed to his job in Iraq, they said.

“He pretty much demanded to go back,” Adam Lusk, a family friend, was quoted as saying to reporters.

Ruiz was assigned to the 2nd Medical Battalion, which supports the II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Pentagon withholds names of the dead until their families are notified; official identifications are expected in the coming days.

Minjares had only been in Iraq for seven days before the crash, family members said.

“He gave me all his clothes and stuff, like he knew what was going to happen,” Jose Minjares, Gilbert’s brother, told an El Paso newspaper. “He told me, ‘If anything happens, I want you to let my kids know I did it for them.’”

Minjares is survived by his wife, a 2-year-old son and a 4-week-old newborn, family members said.

On Thursday, the commandant of the Marine Corps said the recent helicopter incidents represented an “intensity of effort” by insurgents. Gen. James Conway also said that Marine officials did not believe the CH-46 was shot down this week. A Sunni insurgent group has claimed it shot down the helicopter, and news reports cited witnesses as saying they saw it shot down.

Conway, in comments made to a group of government executives at a Washington hotel, also said the Marines are worried about newer versions of anti-aircraft missiles showing up in Iraq.

“More troubling is the appearance of SA-16s and SA-18s,” Conway was quoted as saying. SA-16s and SA-18s are surface-to-air missiles.

An al-Qaida-linked insurgent group posted a Web video Friday showing what it said was the downing of a U.S. military helicopter earlier this week.

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.

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 Associated Press contributed to this report.


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