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Iraqis cheer UK copter crash

Jubilant residents pelted British rescuers with stones, hurled firebombs and shouted slogans.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 11:08 IST

A British military helicopter crashed on Saturday in Basra apparently downed by a missile, triggering a confrontation in which jubilant residents pelted British rescuers with stones, hurled firebombs and shouted slogans in support of a radical Shiite cleric.

Iraqi police said four British crew members were killed in the crash and five civilians, including a child, died in the melee as Shiite gunmen and British soldiers exchanged gunfire, police and witnesses said. About 30 Iraqis were injured, police said. At least one British armored vehicle was set ablaze as a crowd of about 250 Iraqis, many of them teenagers, shouted "we are soldiers of the Sayed" -- a reference to Shiite cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Calm returned by nightfall as Iraqi authorities imposed a curfew and hundreds of Iraqi police and soldiers set up checkpoints and patrolled the streets, residents said. Sporadic rocket fire could be heard throughout the city, Iraq's second largest. In Baghdad, President Jalal Talabani's security adviser warned the crash could signal more trouble in the south, which had been quieter than Baghdad or Sunni Arab areas in the north and west of Iraq.

"We had said that terrorism wouldn't be entrenched in one place," Lt General Wafiq al-Sammaraie told Al-Arabiya television. "Therefore, we should expect dangerous developments in the region after the crash."

First Published: May 07, 2006 01:31 IST