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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

March 24, 2003

Karbala watch: Apache down.

Of course I am concerned for American troops - but they have no monopoly on my concerns. Karbala, the site of martyrdom of Imam Husain AS, lies once again at the nexus of powerful forces shaping the world.Both Karbala and Kufa (where Ali AS is buried, near Najaf) are directly in the path of the US forces advancing on Baghdad, and are major religious and demographic centers for Shi'a. A well-written essay in The San Jose Mercury News has a good overview of the historical importance of Karbala and Kufa, as well as this geographic information:

Two of the Muslim world's most sacred places, both of them closely connected to Islam's reverence for martyrdom, lie in the path of the American forces advancing toward Baghdad. Major damage or civilian casualties in either place could incite new Muslim anger at America.

Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, was brutally killed at Karbala, on the Euphrates River about 55 miles southwest of Baghdad. Al Najaf, about 160 miles from the capital, holds the gold-domed tomb of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.

Karbala is definitely at the focus. As reported in The Guardian:

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division dashed north Monday toward the Shiite holy city of Karbala, only 50 miles south of Baghdad, but was stalled by a sandstorm that blew out of the desert.
The troops moving on Karbala made their rapid advance under heavy allied air protection that wiped out a column of charging Iraqi armor and sent some of Saddam Hussein's outer defenses withdrawing toward the capital. But the weather - not Iraqi troops - halted the long columns of thousands of vehicles that were stretched across the desert and farms.
Outside the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Karbala, U.S. soldiers skirmished with Iraqi forces before dawn Monday. Iraqis shot rockets and anti-aircraft guns at the Americans.

Now, according to the BBC, Iraqi television broadcasted pictures of what it claimed was a US helicopter shot down in Karbala. More information and a screenshot comes from

24-03-2003, 09:40 Iraqi television showed Monday morning a downed helicopter which it claims is part of the US forces. The AH-64 Longbow Apache, which appeared intact, was still armed with guided missiles with US markings on them.

The chopper was in a field and was said to have been found by a farmer. Iraqis waving rifles surrounded the black aircraft, which normally carries a crew of two.

The TV report indicated it was in the Karbala area, south-west of Baghdad. There were no indications of what had happened to any aircrew. (

Another news site mentions that command HQ in Doha has confirmed loss of the Apache:

At allied forward command headquarters in Doha, Qatar, an officer confirmed that an Apache helicopter had gone down in Iraq but gave no further details.

The television pictures from Karbala, a Shiite Muslim pilgrimage city some 80 kilometres south of Baghdad, showed the aircraft surrounded by Iraqi civilians, dancing and shouting slogans glorifying President Saddam Hussein and brandishing Kalashnikov rifles.

The inscription "United States of America" was clearly visible on the tail of the helicopter and the figures 95135 were inscribed on the rear rotor.

"The aircraft was shot down with a rifle by a brave fighter, the farmer Ali Obeid of Kerbala," the station announced.

White-bearded and proudly brandishing his rifle for the cameras, the old man claimed to have shot down another helicopter of the same type nearby, but no pictures of his second exploit were shown.

and a report from Ananova has more screenshots of the Iraqi TV report, clearly showing military emblems and the missiles intact.

ABC News in Australia also reports that the US military has confirmed loss of the Apache. The story has also finally penetrated US media, in the Boston Globe.

I think that the Apache may have been part of the helicopter assault on Republican Guard units that has also been reported near Karbala:

Republican Guard division attacked by helicopters near Baghdad; Reports on battle near Karbala 24-03-2003, 09:27
U.S. Apache helicopters moved within 10 kilometres of Baghdad and attacked the armoured Medina division of the Republican Guard early Monday. The battle follows a series of tough firefights to the south. According to CNN, the helicopters attacked the Medina division, which protects Baghdad.

U.S. forces encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire as they tried to take out Iraqi tanks on the ground. Many of the choppers came back damaged.

Late Sunday, there were reports of a battle near Karbala and Al Hillah, where coalition troops engaged the Republican Guard. That battle would be the closest fighting yet to Baghdad. The battle near Karbala lasted three hours and ended in the early morning hours. (

UPDATE: confirmed, the downed Apache was from the firefight. Much more detailed report from the Washington Post.

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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