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Archive for Monday, April 23, 2001

U.S. blames Peru for accidental shootdown

April 23, 2001

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— U.S. intelligence officials blamed the Peruvian military Sunday for pulling the trigger too quickly and downing a plane that was suspected of smuggling drugs but actually was carrying an American missionary family.

The latest version of events as described by U.S. intelligence officials steered blame away from the three Americans flying a surveillance aircraft for the CIA who initially spotted the other plane and alerted the Peruvian military last Friday.

As anger mounted at the emerging U.S. role in the incident, intelligence officials in Washington and Peru investigating the CIA's involvement said the responsibility lies with Peru's air force. The three Americans aboard the CIA surveillance plane voiced repeated concerns that the Peruvian fighter pilots were moving through their check-list of procedures too quickly as they targeted and shot down the plane. A mother and her infant daughter were killed. Her husband and 6-year-old son, and the pilot, survived as their small pontoon aircraft crash-landed in the Amazon River.

The downing is the latest incident involving U.S. military and intelligence working abroad. Already this year, a Navy submarine conducting an emergency surfacing drill collided with a Japanese fishing boat off Hawaii, sinking the boat and killing Japanese civilians aboard. In Kuwait, a Navy fighter participating in a live-fire exercise accidentally bombed an observation post killing six Americans, a Kuwaiti and a New Zealander. And on April 1, a Navy electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet, sending the jet crashing into the South China Sea, killing its pilot, and embroiling the Bush administration in a major effort to win the release of the 24 crew members.

Each of these incidents is being investigated separately, but all underscore the scope and breadth of U.S. military involvement around the world.

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