News In Brief

Downed helicopter said to have been unmarked

Nicaraguan soldiers who shot down a US helicopter and killed its pilot said they did not realize it was being flown by an American, because the helicopter's US army markings had deliberately been covered with mud, a Nicaraguan military spokesman said Saturday.

Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, the head of the Army in Honduras, where the helicopter was shot down, said the helicopter strayed over Nicaraguan territory. But he said he was not sure why it was off course.

US officials earlier had said the craft had strayed from an eastward path in high winds, and an investigation had not yet determined whether it entered Nicaraguan air space. However, witnesses in the town of Cifuentes, where the helicopter was forced to land, said it had been flying west along the border at a low altitude on a windless day from the direction of Las Trojes, another hamlet further down the road.

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