3 Bulgarians Among 11 Dead in Iraq Plane Crash

Politics | April 21, 2005, Thursday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
3 Bulgarians Among 11 Dead in Iraq Plane Crash Three Bulgarian pilots, six American civilians and two Filipino guards were killed in Iraq after a Bulgarian Mi-8 commercial helicopter was shot down by missile fire. Photo by CNN

Three Bulgarian pilots, six American civilians and two Fiji guards were killed in Iraq after a Bulgarian Mi-8 commercial helicopter was shot down by missile fire.

The civilian helicopter was downed about 20km north of Baghdad, killing all 11 people on board.

Sofia identified the three Bulgarian victims as Lyubomir Kostov, Georgi Naydenov and Stoyan Anchev. They were employed by Bulgarian airline Heli Air, which worked on a wet leasing contract with Toronto-based SkyLink Aviation. The Canadian company was contracted by the US Defense Department to transport personnel involved in the reconstruction of Iraq.

The six American casualties worked for security contractor Blackwater USA, the US Embassy in Baghdad said. The North Carolina-based contracting firm provides security for State Department officials in the Arab country.

The attack on the Russian-built cargo aircraft is believed to be the first downing of a civilian aircraft in Iraq.

Thursday's incident increased the number of Bulgarian casualties there to 14 - eight military and six civilian deaths.

The twin-engined Mi-8 helicopter, which has both commercial and military uses, has been in operation for more than 30 years and can carry up to 24 passengers.

Video on television showed burning wreckage from the Russian-built craft, two charred bodies and personal belongings scattered across a wide area.

Later the same day, Iraqi guerilla group The Islamic Army in Iraq has claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter in a short posting on a web site.

The authenticity of the brief statement could not be verified immediately.

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