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Copter Downed, 3 Americans Killed, Rebels Say

<i> From Associated Press</i>

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.

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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.

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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.


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