5 U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq Copter Crash

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Five U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed early Thursday morning near Basra Air Station in Iraq, U.S. military officials said.

The soldiers were riding in a CH-47 Chinook about 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Basra when the helicopter went down, according to a U.S. military news release.

The soldiers were part of a convoy flying from Kuwait to Balad. The names of the soldiers were not released pending notification of next of kin.

On Wednesday, bombs in two parked cars detonated in western Baghdad on Wednesday in quick succession, killing eight people and wounding 25 others, an Interior Ministry official said.

Baghdad was also struck by a series of roadside bombings that killed two people and wounded 16 others, the official said.

The double car bombing happened outside a hospital in the Harthiya district shortly before noon, the official said. The two cars were parked close together.

It was the second twin car bomb attack in Baghdad this week. On Monday, two car bombs detonated in central Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding 37 others.

Five roadside bombings struck the Iraqi capital Wednesday, one of which targeted a New Baghdad district council leader, the official said. The council leader's driver was killed, and he and his security guard were wounded in the attack.

Another roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad killed an Iraqi policeman and wounded five others.

Two other roadside bombings in the capital wounded nine Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the deputy governor of Nineveh province was gunned down as he was leaving evening prayers in central Mosul, city police said.

Shamel Younis was walking outside the mosque when gunmen in a car shot and killed him, then fled, police said.

The new U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday that security in the country has improved, but is still in a "fragile state."

"As we've said many times, everyone is encouraged by the progress that has been made here in Iraq, but we still have a lot of work to do," said Gen. Ray Odierno, who took command of U.S. forces in Iraq on Tuesday.

dierno replaced Gen. David Petraeus, whose tenure saw a reversal in the country's rising violence.

"It's a proud moment for me to be given the responsibility to take command of Multi-National Force-Iraq and continue the mission here in Iraq as we move forward," Odierno said in Tuesday's handover ceremony in Baghdad, which was attended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"We are in a fragile state now. What I want to do is build it to a more stable state. And I think we're in the process of doing it. It just takes some time, and it's slow," Odierno said.

Odierno said he is "encouraged" by the growth of Iraqi security forces and the national police.

"We're starting to see signs of some other of the governmental capacities begin to grow, which I think is extremely important," he said.

CNN's Cal Perry contributed to this report.


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