Islamic State Shoots Down Military Chopper in Iraq

A military helicopter in Iraq was shot down by the militant group Islamic State. The helicopter went down near Samarra, a city that is Sunni dominated, killing both pilots.

Media in Iraq reported on Saturday that the helicopter had been shot down close to Mutassem, a strategic area of entry to Samarra a Shiite holy city that is 78 miles to the north of Baghdad.

It was not clear the type of military helicopter that had been shot down or when it had taken place. A news agency in Iraq reported that the copter was shot down on Saturday, as did other news agencies.

However, activists that are anti-government claimed one or even more helicopters had been downed on Friday.

Defense ministry authorities in Iraq inside Samarra said no details of a crash could be confirmed.

The center of Samarra has been secured by Iraq’s army and several Shiite militias leading the battle against the militant group, which controls a great deal of western and northern Iraq and part of Syria.

Islamic State wrestled control from the Iraqi military of Mutassem three months ago and touted its victory with graphic photos online showing corpses of Iraqi soldiers in the streets.

Iraqi and U.S. forces have since then attempted to retake that area via airstrikes that have so far proved to be unsuccessful, although the government of Iraq said on Saturday it had liberated all of Mutassem.

The Islamic State has downed two or more other military helicopters in Iraq close to the central city of Beiji, which is home to a refinery that would be considered a strategic coup if the group took over control there.

The recent attack in Samarra was not a surprise as in the past few days Muqtada Sar the radical Shiite cleric put his militia the Peace Brigade on alert to battle Sunni militants for the city, which is home to a Shiite mosque that was destructed eight years ago, which helped to deepen the sectarian divide in the country.

The military announced that reinforcements had arrived following the attack on the helicopter.

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