Friday, August 31, 2007

U.S. Military Plane Carrying 3 U.S. Senators, and 1 Rep. (Mel Martinez, Richard Shelby, and James Inhofe) shot at!

A must read:

(CNN) -- A U.S. military plane carrying three U.S. senators and one member of the House of Representatives came under rocket fire Thursday night and had to make evasive maneuvers as it left Baghdad for Amman, Jordan.

"Our plane leaving Iraq was fired upon, and it was a close call, but this is something that our men and women in combat face every day," Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Alabama, said in a statement. "The flight crew was outstanding, and I credit them for the way they handled the situation."

Sens. Mel Martinez, R-Florida; Richard Shelby, R-Alabama; and James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, were also on the flight.

Multi-National Force-Iraq, in a statement issued Friday, said the C-130 crew "dispensed flares as a defensive countermeasure and conducted standard evasive maneuvers. The aircraft, crew and passengers safely completed their flight."

Shelby told CNN affiliate WVTM in Birmingham, Alabama, that the rockets were "near misses."

"I was looking out the window, a little small window, and I saw a shell or something," Shelby said in a phone interview from Amman, where the plane landed safely. "And then I see a flare. Our plane started maneuvering and changing directions and shaking all around."

The flares are part of the missile avoidance system aboard the C-130 aircraft. Heat from the flares distract rockets that have heat-seeking guidance systems.

In other violence, four policemen were killed and five people were wounded in a car bombing Friday in northern Iraq, police said. The explosive detonated near a convoy in Samarra, said police in that Salaheddin province city.

Meanwhile, U.S. Marines, backed by air support, killed 12 men believed to be al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists in Anbar province, the U.S. military said Friday said.

According to the military, the Marines engaged a group of men loading objects into three cargo trucks Wednesday near Karma, a town about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

Marine Corps Harrier jets were called in and dropped two precision-guided bombs, destroying two vehicles.

Marines said they found weapons and bomb-making materials at the scene.

Also, a U.S. Marine and soldier were killed in separate attacks Wednesday in Anbar, the military said.

Both were assigned to the Multi-National Force-West.

The U.S. military death toll in the Iraq war stands at 3,730; seven civilian contractors also have been killed. The military has reported 79 U.S. troop deaths during August, matching last month's toll.

Those figures are lower than fatalities in the previous three months, when there were 100 U.S. deaths in June, 126 in May and 104 in April.

Meanwhile, about 1,500 detainees will be released from Iraqi prisons during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a statement from the office of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi said.

About 50 people per day will be set free from "American prisons," al-Hashimi adviser Omar al-Jabouri said.

The prisoner release is part of a larger initiative by al-Hashimi to clear "innocent detainees" from prisons in Iraq. The vice president is developing the plan with input from Iraq's political blocs and the U.S. military.

Goodwill gestures are common during Ramadan -- a monthlong observance of daytime fasting and prayer that will begin around September 12.


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