Leftist guerrillas shot down a U.S. military helicopter in the eastern part of El Salvador on Wednesday, killing three American crewmen on board, the rebels said.
A rebel broadcast said a guerrilla unit brought down the Huey copter near the village of Lolotique, 75 miles east of the capital, but it did not say what weapons were used.
A spokesman at the armed forces press office, who insisted on anonymity for security reasons, confirmed that the UH-1M helicopter was shot down but refused to give details or say if anyone was killed.
The bodies of three crew members carrying U.S. military identification were found by a guerrilla column that searched the wreckage, said the broadcast by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
It identified the pilot as David Scott, the co-pilot only as Pickett and the engineer as Dawson.
The U.S. Embassy refused to confirm or deny the report other than to say a U.S. helicopter was missing.
A spokeswoman in Washington, Maj. Kathy Wood, said only that the Pentagon had reports of a U.S. military helicopter overdue on a trip to Honduras from El Salvador.
A military source, who insisted on anonymity, said several Salvadoran infantry units were sent out to comb the area to locate the wreckage and retrieve possible victims.
Rebel forces in the area did not know it was a U.S. helicopter when they shot it down, the broadcast said. It added that “at the time it was a war craft that was overflying a war zone . . . and within this context it was shot down.”
On Tuesday, the Sandinista army in neighboring Nicaragua said that some of its officers had secretly sold surface-to-air missiles to the Salvadoran guerrillas.
A Sandinista army communique said that a former major, three captains and 11 Salvadoran civilians were arrested for questioning in connection with the arms deal.