8 May 2006

Mob cheers as bodies found in wreckage

Scotland on Sunday - Mob cheers as bodies found in wreckage: "CHEERING crowds punching the air as columns of smoke billowed upwards yesterday symbolised another grim turn in the relationship between British forces and Iraqis after three years of occupation.
Minutes earlier, a British helicopter had exploded in a fireball after being shot out of the sky above Basra. Iraqi fire-fighting crews rushed to the scene and reported they had found charred bodies amid the wreckage.
British forces also headed for the area to seal it off while they recovered their dead and anything important from the helicopter. But they were met by a frenzied, jubilant mob.
As the UK forces arrived, backed by armoured vehicles, a hail of stones came from the crowd of hundreds. They jumped for joy and raised their fists in triumph as the plume of thick smoke rose into the air from the blazing crash site.
The crowd also set fire to British armoured vehicles using petrol bombs, but eyewitnesses said the soldiers inside escaped unhurt. British forces fired weapons into the air in an effort to disperse the crowd.
Speaking from Basra, spokesman Major Sebastian Muntz, said: 'It has been quite tense and British troops who secured the area came under attack with a variety of weapons. One hopes this is just an isolated incident and we can get on with sorting out Basra.'
Although British officials would not confirm the number of dead, the owner of one of the houses near the crash site said he had seen the bodies of five crew members.
'One of them belonged to a major, I could see his rank,' said the man, Abu Zaid. 'I saw the remains of the others.'
As the chaos worsened, shooting broke out between the British soldiers and armed militiamen, and at least four people, including a child, were reported to have been killed in the mayhem.
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