Up to 5 Die in British Copter Crash and Attack in Basra By SABRINA TAVERNISE Published: May 7, 2006 BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 6 â A British military helicopter crashed in the southern city of Basra on Saturday, apparently after being hit by a rocket, drawing crowds of cheering local residents who threw stones and Molotov cocktails, Iraqi officials said. As many as five service members were killed, witnesses said. An official in the Basra governor's office said the helicopter had been struck by an antiaircraft rocket and crashed into three residential buildings in the Saee neighborhood about 1:50 p.m. Witnesses, including an owner of one of the houses, reported seeing five bodies, though Maj. Sebastian Muntz, a spokesman for the British military in Basra, did not confirm the number of casualties or say how many people were on board. The crash drew crowds of young men and boys, who cheered and waved shirts in a celebratory spectacle as smoke rose from behind several houses, where the helicopter had gone down. In scenes broadcast on Al Jazeera television, men were seen lobbing stones at the crash site and at British soldiers who had arrived to secure the area. Witnesses said soldiers crouched behind several sport utility vehicles until two armored personnel carriers arrived with reinforcements. The crowd then turned on the vehicles, throwing Molotov cocktails at them and setting at least one on fire. It was not clear whether soldiers were inside the vehicles at the time. British soldiers fired plastic bullets at the crowd. By 4 p.m., they had secured the area. Basra, the largest city in Iraq's Shiite south, had long been one of the quietest areas for coalition forces, but over the past year has become more deadly as the city's many Shiite militias have vied for power. The neighborhood is one of the city's poorer areas, and it is full of supporters of the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who has frequently channeled the anger of impoverished Shiites against American and British forces. Last September, British forces fought gun battles with Mr. Sadr's militia after two undercover British soldiers were seized. When the military sent forces secure the area, crowds of Mr. Sadr's supporters also threw stones and cans of flaming gasoline at British tanks, setting them on fire, in a fashion similar to the events of Saturday. The owner of one of the houses near the crash site said that he had seen the bodies of five people whom he believed were crew members. "One of them belonged to a major, I could see his rank," said the man, who agreed to speak on the condition that he be identified only by his Iraqi nickname, Abu Zaid. "I saw the remains of the others." The force of the crash appeared to have been substantial, as the bodies were severely damaged. British forces gathered the remains of the service members in seven plastic bags. It was not immediately clear whether Iraqis were among the dead. The crash was the first for a British military helicopter, but was not the deadliest for the British military in this war. In January 2005, a transport plane crashed north of Baghdad, killing up to 15 service members on board. Sunni Arab insurgents struck Saturday as well. A suicide bomber dressed as an Iraqi Army officer walked into a base in western Tikrit, a city north of Baghdad, and blew himself up around 8 a.m., officials said, killing three army officers and wounding one. The bomber was allowed inside after telling a guard at the gate that he was an officer who had been moved to the base, an official in the governor's office of Salahuddin Province. He was wearing the uniform of a captain or major, the official said, when he walked up to several officers standing outside a building that is part of a battalion headquarters of the Fourth Iraqi Army Division. The dead included a lieutenant colonel, a major and a lieutenant, the official said. The battalion commander, Staff Brig. Dakhel al-Jibouri, was wounded in the blast. Public confidence in Iraq's security forces has plummeted, as reports mount of militias and criminal gangs conducting raids dressed in police and army uniforms. At a news conference on Saturday, Gen. Mahdi Sabih al-Gharawi, the commander of the country's Public Order Brigade, part of its paramilitary forces, said the national police would receive new uniforms in June to help fight the problem. In other violence, three Ministry of Interior commandos were kidnapped in Mahawel, south of Baghdad, while they were on their way to work at 6:30 a.m., an official in the ministry said. In another incident of kidnapping by men dressed as police officers, two truck drivers were taken in Boshear, also south of Baghdad. Two children were killed and one was wounded in Shuala, the Shiite slum in northern Baghdad, when a rocket struck the area around 9:30 a.m., the ministry official said. An American soldier was killed in Baghdad on Friday, when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb, the American military said Saturday. Ali Adeeb and Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article,and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Basra.