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US helicopter crashes north of Baghdad

A helicopter crashed north of Baghdad on Monday, but the status of the two-man crew wasn't immediately known.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 19:17 IST

A helicopter crashed north of Baghdad on Monday, but the status of the two-man crew wasn't immediately known, and a car bomb detonated next to a police convoy and killed six people.

Police and hospital officials said the bomb killed a six-year-old child and five police officers in Muqdadiya, about 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of the capital.

Najim Abid, a medic at Muqdadiya general hospital, said the blast also injured 16 civilians and three policemen.

Iraq's election commission, meanwhile, planned to announce the results of its investigation into allegations of vote fraud on Monday.

It was not immediately known what caused the helicopter to crash around 8.20 am, and the military didn't immediately release any additional information.

Among the helicopters used by the Army that have a two-person crew are the AH-64 Apache and the OH-58 Kiowa reconnaissance.

The number of fatal US military helicopter crashes in Iraq has spiked in recent weeks, fitting a wartime pattern of more frequent accidental and combat crashes during winter months.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, or IECI, has worked through the 50 or so serious complaints of voter fraud lodged after the December 15 election, Safwat Rashid, an official with the panel, said on Sunday.

About 2,000 complaints were filed overall, but the commission said only 50 had the potential to change vote totals.

The governing United Iraqi Alliance, a Shi'ite religious bloc, has a strong lead, according to preliminary results.

But it will not win enough seats in the 275-member parliament to avoid a coalition with Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties.

Final election results have been delayed by Sunni Arab complaints of fraud.

Although leading politicians have expressed hopes a government could be formed in February, most experts and officials agree it could take two to three months, as it did after the January 2005 elections for an interim government.

Some 900 ballot boxes were checked for problems and a minority of those will be thrown out, Rashid said.

He refused to say how many but noted the boxes hold only about 500 votes, meaning the overall effect would be minimal. About 70 per cent of registered Iraqis voted, casting about 11 million votes nationwide.

The commission has not worked through the other 1,930 or so complaints, another elections official said.

Those less serious charges would not change any vote totals but could result in fines, he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The international team assessing the IECI's handling of the voting process also said it would release its final report on Thursday.

The IECI is expected to release uncertified final results shortly after that, perhaps as soon as this coming weekend. More complaints could be lodged after that, and it could take up to two weeks to study those complaints.

Certified results would then be announced -- likely sometime in early February -- opening the way for negotiations in earnest over a coalition government.

In violence on Monday, gunmen in Baghdad killed a civilian and a police officer in separate incidents, police said. Gunmen also attacked a truck carrying goods for the US military, killing the Iraqi driver, Sgt Kamal al-Saeidi said.

The tribunal overseeing the Saddam case confirmed on Sunday that Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin submitted his resignation for "personal reasons" and not because of government pressure.

It said the trial of Saddam and seven co-defendants would reconvene on January 24 as scheduled despite the uncertainties surrounding Amin.

Amin, the chief judge in the current Saddam trial, submitted his resignation after becoming fed up with criticism that he had let the proceedings against the ousted leader spin out of control, a court official said on Saturday.

Saddam has often grabbed the spotlight during the nearly 3-month-old trial. He has railed at Amin, refused to show up at one session, claimed he was tortured and openly prayed in court when the judge would not allow a recess.

The former leader and his co-defendants are charged in the deaths of more than 140 Shi'ite Muslims from the town of Dujail who were killed in retaliation for a 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam.

Conviction could bring a sentence of death by hanging. The chief prosecutor in Saddam's trial, Jaafar al-Mousawi,said that if Amin's resignation is accepted another judge on the panel would replace him as chief and another judge would be appointed to the panel.

Amin would be the second judge to step down in the case. The first, who was replaced, removed himself in late November because one of the co-defendants may have been involved in the execution of his brother.

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 19:39 IST