2 die in Iraq chopper crash
* Police officer, former Baath party member killed
BAGHDAD: A US Kiowa reconnaissance helicopter crashed in western Iraq on Wednesday, killing the two crew on board, and the US Army said mechanical problems rather than hostile fire had probably brought the aircraft down.
Witnesses in the town of Haditha, 200 kilometres northwest of Baghdad on the highway to the Syrian border, said the helicopter hit overhead power cables and crashed into a river. The Kiowa is an observation and light attack helicopter that carries a crew of two. In Mosul, assailants gunned down a top police officer and a former member of jailed dictator Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baath party, police said. Police General Hikmat Mahmud Muhammad was shot dead by three men in an Opel car as he left his home, said Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Azel Hazem Khafudi.
In the latest vigilante killing of a former Baathist, Anfel Ilah al-Anaz, a general in Saddam’s army, was assassinated and his son badly wounded when men pulled up in a white Opel and riddled his car with bullets, said Police Major Makram Zakariah. Polish troops arrested nine men suspected of carrying out terrorist attacks in a region south of Baghdad, said General Mieczyslaw Bieniek, who commands a multinational division. In Kirkuk, a militant group scattered leaflets at police stations threatening attacks against Iraqi police and Kurdish militias for cooperating with Americans, police said. The papers, signed by the Mujahideen Brigades in Iraq warned Iraqi security forces not to be “a shield for the infidel Americans.”
Reconstruction: The World Bank will commit only $500 million out of the $33 billion pledged by donors up to the June 30 deadline for the handover of power, a senior official said. “The total package we are trying to commit by June 30, which is our target, is over half a billion dollars which is a reasonable chunk of money,” said John Speakman, the World Bank’s senior private sector development specialist for the Middle East and North Africa. Meanwhile, the coalition said it was willing to postpone a “status of forces” agreement until after Iraq receives its sovereignty at the end of June, a move which could leave US soldiers this summer battling a dangerous Iraqi insurgency without any deal legitimising their presence in the country.
A top UN envoy said the United Nations was confident a broad spectrum of Iraqis agrees that elections were impossible before the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to a caretaker government. Lakhdar Brahimi, who authored a UN report on Iraq released this week, said his fact-finding team met with between 400 and 600 Iraqis during its mission, and he felt no strong opposition to delaying elections until late this year or early next year. “The impression we had was that we very conclusively demonstrated to them that no credible elections are really possible before the 30th of June,” Brahimi told reporters in Tokyo. —Agencies