Seven US soldiers killed in helicopter crash in Iraq

Seven US soldiers killed in helicopter crash in Iraq
The Chinook was flying from Kuwait to a US military base north of Baghdad. There were no survivors

* Haroon Siddique and agencies
* Thursday September 18 2008 09:00 BST

Seven US soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed in southern Iraq today, the US military said.

The CH-47 Chinook crashed shortly after midnight (10pm BST Wednesday), about 60 miles west of Basra. There were no survivors.

"Right now it appears it was not hostile activity. It appears to be a mechanical malfunction," a military spokesman told Reuters.

The helicopter was part of a convoy of four flying from Kuwait to the US military base at Balad, north of Baghdad.

The Chinook is designed to transport troops and supplies and can carry dozens of personnel.

The US military said 69 helicopters have crashed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The Brookings Institution's Iraq index says 36 of those were due to enemy fire.

Violence in Iraq has fallen to a four-year low and earlier this month the US president, George Bush, announced a withdrawal of 8,000 US troops by February, although that will still leave just under 140,000 troops deployed there, a similar number to pre-surge levels.

Baghdad is currently negotiating a security deal with Washington to determine how many US troops will remain after the UN mandate expires at the end of the year.