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New York Times: Iraqi Insurgents Targeting US Helicopters

The New York Times is reporting that since late last year, Iraqi insurgents have had a strategic plan to specifically target coalition helicopters. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

A front-page story in Sunday's New York Times says Iraqi insurgents have sought to bring down coalition aircraft, and especially have been stepping up their attacks on U.S. helicopters.

The newspaper based its story on a U.S. intelligence report that contained information gathered from documents seized near Baghdad, from the group, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. The report says the insurgents coordinate their attacks on aircraft with a variety of weapons, including machine guns, rockets and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. It adds that attackers make their plans by studying flight patterns near U.S. bases and along supply routes.

The intelligence report says al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is claiming responsibility for shooting down three helicopters.

White House spokesman Tony Snow was asked about the New York Times report on CNN's Late Edition.

"Without confirming or denying, it shouldn't surprise anybody that an enemy is going to look constantly for ways, not merely to kill Americans but also to attract media attention," said Tony Snow.

He added that U.S. forces in Iraq are working to adapt to new challenges.

"There have been a number of occasions now where our helicopters and our aircraft have been brought down by enemy forces," he said. "And they [insurgents] have, in fact, adopted tactics that are designed to do that. We're going to have to adjust."

The New York Times article reports that a total of seven helicopters, including military and private aircraft, have been shot down since January 20.

U.S. Central Command press releases publicly report three military helicopter crashes in Iraq this year.

Centcom says the causes for two of the three earlier crashes are still under investigation. But U.S. officials confirm that hostile fire - probably by what a military spokesman in Baghdad described as a "sophisticated piece of weaponry" - was the cause of at least one helicopter crash earlier this month that was initially blamed on mechanical problems.