Iran supplied missile that hit UK helicopter
A ROYAL NAVY helicopter that crashed in flames in Basra last year, killing all five on board, was shot down by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile supplied to Iraqi militants by Iran, according to US officials.
America knew that the Mahdi Army, the radical Shi’ite militia, had obtained the shoulder-launched missile from the Iranians but failed to tell the British because of a row between the State Department and the CIA over the reliability of the source, US intelligence sources said.
The Lynx helicopter, from 847 Naval Air Squadron, based at Yeovilton, Somerset, was carrying a three-man crew plus Wing Commander John Coxen, the most senior officer to die in Iraq, and Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill, the first British servicewoman killed in action since the second world war.
Witnesses told an inquest in Oxford last week that they saw a ball of yellow flame, typical of a particular type of missile, heading for the Lynx. Private Stuart Drummond said: “I thought it was a missile. The helicopter exploded. It was engulfed in flames and went down.”
telephone intercepts, intelligence reports and pieces of the missile recovered from the scene confirmed that it came from Iran, the American sources said.
Three days before the attack, State Department officials interviewed an Iraqi linked to the Mahdi Army who told them Iran had supplied the militia with the Russian surface-to-air missile.
It was intended specifically for the Mahdi Army to shoot down a British helicopter, codenamed Operation Hawk-Taking.
The intelligence was not passed on to the British because the CIA dismissed the Iraqi detainee as “a well-known fabricator”, the sources alleged.