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Helicopter Crashes, Contras Claim it Shot Down With AM-Nicaragua-Peace

October 31, 1987 GMT

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ A Sandinista air force helicopter crashed near the border with Honduras while on a supply mission, killing all six people aboard, the Defense Ministry said Friday night.

The ministry communique said the Soviet-made MI-8 helicopter crashed Thursday because of mechanical problems 180 miles northeast of Managua near the town of Murra, in Nueva Segovia province.

The dead included the crew and Sandinista army officers, it said.

Rebels, meanwhile, claimed to have shot down a Sandinista MI-25 helicopter Thursday seven miles from Juigalpa, which is 50 miles east of Managua in Chontales province.

The region has been the scene of heavy fighting this month.

A rebel news release issued in Miami and telephoned to The Associated Press in Managua said the helicopter was hit by a Red-Eye missile fired by a missile commando of the Jorge Salazar No. 2 Regional Command.

Government and rebel accounts of helicopter crashes frequently differ and it was not clear if they were referring to the same aircraft or giving their own accounts of the same incident.

The U.S.-backed rebels say they have shot down 16 helicopters this year and 25 in the last six years. The government acknowledges losing five in the fighting.