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Military expresses doubts over video of dragged pilot

BAGHDAD -- Gunmen shouting ''God is great!" dragged the burning body of what they said was a US pilot in a horrific video posted yesterday on the Web by a new Al Qaeda-affiliated group that said it shot down an Apache helicopter last weekend.

The US military expressed outrage over the release of ''such a despicable video for public exposure" but said it had serious doubts that the footage was authentic.

The AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter was downed near Youssifiyah about 12 miles southwest of Baghdad on Saturday, killing the two pilots. A US statement said troops had recovered ''all available remains" although ''reports of a website video suggest that terrorists removed part of a body from the crash site."

The flaming wreckage of a helicopter could be seen clearly in the video, including outlines of the aircraft's blades and jagged pieces of wreckage strewn over a field.

The camera panned over bloodstained debris, then showed several men dragging the burning body of a man across a field as they shouted ''Allahu Akbar," or ''God is great!" Voices could be heard shouting, ''Come, come, help me carry it."

The body's face was not visible, but the camera zoomed in on what appeared to be his waistline, which showed a scrap of underwear with the brand name Hanes. It appeared the man was wearing tattered digital camouflage fatigues, which are worn by US troops in Iraq.

The time stamp on the video shows the minutes and seconds do not run sequentially, and the scenes appear disjointed. The posting also included bombing scenes filmed elsewhere, indicating the material had been edited as a propaganda package.

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the command, said the wreckage shown on the video ''does appear to be an AH-64" but added that other helicopters of that type have been lost.

''We have serious doubts about the authenticity of this video, a common tactic we see terrorist groups use to keep the stories they want alive in the media," he said.

But in Alexandria, Va., Ben Venzke, head of IntelCenter, a defense contractor that monitors militant statements, said it appeared on first viewing that the tape was authentic. Although the date stamp on the video was Sunday, April 2, a day after the crash, Venzke said the discrepancy could be simply an error in the setting.

He said the large amount of background chatter among those on the ground suggested that ''it was filmed closely after the downing of the helicopter as opposed to something that was found later and staged."

US officials first reported Saturday that an American helicopter had crashed that day about 5:30 p.m. during a combat patrol southwest of the capital.

Late the next day, the US command confirmed that the helicopter was an Apache and the two crew members were ''presumed dead." Later the same day, US authorities said the bodies had been recovered.

Yesterday, the military identified the pilots killed as Captain Timothy J. Moshier, 25, of Albany, N.Y., and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael L. Hartwick, of Orrick, Mo.

The video was sent via e-mail to reporters and posted on an Islamist website by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, purportedly a new umbrella organization that includes Al Qaeda in Iraq.

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