DIWANIYAH, Iraq — Poland turned over control of an area south of Baghdad to American troops on Saturday, making it the latest in a string of countries to leave the dwindling U.S.-led coalition.
But even as Polish troops head home from Iraq, their government is boosting troop levels in Afghanistan and preparing for a U.S. missile defense base in Poland.
Polish special forces fought in the initial 2003 invasion, and the country went on to command an international coalition that at its peak included troops from more than 20 other countries and oversaw five provinces south of Baghdad. At first, Poland kept 2,500 soldiers in the country, but the numbers gradually fell to 900. Several countries once under Polish command — including Spain — bolted years ago.
COPTERS CRASH: Two U.S. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters collided while landing at a base in Baghdad on Saturday, killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding four people, including two Americans, the military said. The U.S. military said hostile fire did not appear to be the cause.
MILITANT KILLED: The U.S. military said it killed an al-Qaida in Iraq leader suspected of masterminding one of the deadliest attacks in Baghdad, several other recent bombings and the 2006 videotaped killing of a Russian official. American troops killed Mahir Ahmad Mahmud al-Zubaydi and his wife in a firefight as they tried to capture him on Friday, the military said.