Thursday, February 10, 2005


I haven't seen much mention of this, but it's curious:

U.S. general says he believes British plane was downed by hostile act, not accident

WASHINGTON (AP) A senior U.S. general said Wednesday he believes the British C-130 aircraft that crashed in Iraq on Jan. 30, killing all 10 people aboard, was downed by hostile action rather than by a mechanical problem. The British government has not said whether it was shot down.

''I personally believe there may have been either hostile action or something that happened inside the aircraft, but I doubt that it was mechanical in nature, if you know what I mean,'' Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters.


Smith said there have been reports that ground fire was seen in the area at the time of the crash, and this is being investigated by the British government.

He expressed doubt that a shoulder-fired missile brought down the C-130, but he left open the possibility that it could have been a radar-guided surface-to-air missile or small arms fire.

''I don't believe that airplane went down from a missile,'' he said, noting later that he was referring specifically to what the military calls a man-portable air defense weapon, or Manpad.

''There are other likely scenarios, whether it's small arms fire that hit something in the rear, or a lucky shot from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade),'' he said. ''There are just so many scenarios, the one that seems least likely to me because it would have been seen is the Manpad one.''

This would be a troubling development if it pans out -- and it's not just a one-off instance of the guerillas getting lucky (in their eyes).

Until we know more, there's no obvious way to defend against it. But it it indicates any growing sophistication in the insurgency, it's bad news. Particularly since roads are so dangerous that flying is the safest transport available for Americans and Brits in Iraq.

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