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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Five Mercs killed in Iraq

Hughes Defender

5 Americans killed in Iraq copter crash

By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 23, 6:00 PM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. security company helicopter crashed Tuesday as it flew over a dangerous Sunni neighborhood in the central Baghdad where insurgents and Iraqi security troops fought a prolonged gunbattle, and a U.S. official said five American civilians on board were killed.

A senior Iraqi military official said the aircraft was shot down, but this was disputed by a U.S. military official in Washington. The Iraqi said the helicopter was hit by a machine gunner over the Fadhil neighborhood on the east side of the Tigris River, while the American official said there was no indication in initial reports that the aircraft, owned by Blackwater USA, had been shot down.

A second U.S. official, in Baghdad, said the five killed were Americans. All the officials demanded anonymity because the details had not been made public. The Americans said they did not know what caused the aircraft to crash.

The U.S. official in Baghdad said there was no information to substantiate reports that the bodies had been shot.

Witnesses in the Fadhil neighborhood reported seeing the helicopter go down after gunmen on the ground opened fire and were believed to have shot the pilot or co-pilot or both. Accounts varied, but all were consistent that at least one person operating the aircraft had been shot and badly hurt before the crash.

The helicopter was believed to have been flying escort above a VIP convoy on the ground as it headed away from the heavily fortified Green Zone to an undisclosed destination.

A spokeswoman for Blackwater USA, which is based in far northeastern North Carolina, declined to comment Tuesday. "We really don't have any information for you yet," said spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. The company provides security for State Department officials in
Iraq, trains military units from around the world, and works for corporate clients.

Katy Helvenston, mother of Scott Helvenston, a Blackwater employee who died in March 2004, said Tuesday's crash "just breaks my heart."

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