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Court-Martials Urged for Five in Friendly Fire Downing of Copters

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A senior military board has recommended that up to five AWACS crew members be court-martialed for their part in the accidental downing of two U.S. Army helicopters over Iraq last April, Pentagon sources said Monday.

Twenty-six people, including 15 Americans, were killed in the “friendly fire” incident April 14 in one of the worst self-inflicted losses in U.S. military history.

“This is a very preliminary recommendation to the senior convening authority,” said one senior Pentagon source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That authority, a three-star Air Force general, must review the recommendation and decide whether to refer the cases for further action by the military’s judicial system.

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The board suggested that dereliction of duty charges be brought against those involved in controlling air operations over northern Iraq, a second source said.

A Pentagon study of the incident that was released last month showed that the controllers on board the AWACS aircraft knew the two Black Hawk choppers were in the area, but failed to warn two F-15 pilots when the fliers reported that they had sighted the helicopters.

The two F-15 pilots, believing the Black Hawks were Iraqis, shot them down.

The recommendation will go to Lt. Gen. Steve Croker, the commander of the 8th Air Force in Barksdale, La. Croker has command of all the Air Force’s Airborne Warning and Control Systems aircraft. He will decide whether the recommendation should be accepted, and whether the cases against the crew members should move forward.

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