F-16 crash: Iraqi pilot at the controls of US fighter jet that crashed in Arizona

Brigadier General Rafid Mohammed Hassan on a night training mission as the Fighting Falcon goes down, Baghdad government confirms

A fighter jet that crashed in southern Arizona was being flown by an Iraqi pilot who had been training in the United States for four years, according to the Baghdad government.

Brigadier General Rafid Mohammed Hassan was the only person in the F-16 Fighting Falcon when it went down five miles east of Douglas, a town near the Mexican border, on Wednesday night, officials in Iraq said.

A spokesman for the Iraqi defence minister, Brigadier General Tahseen Ibrahim, told the Associated Press: "We have no word yet on his fate or the reason behind the crash. We are in contact with the Americans to get more details."

Arizona authorities declined to name the pilot following the crash, which happened during a training mission, though they did confirm he is one of 40 students enrolled in a training program in Tucson. Rescuers were sent to the crash site, according to a guard statement.

The international program by the air guard's 162nd Wing has trainees from Iraq and eight other countries.

Authorities were called to the scene by 911 calls from residents reporting an explosion and fire in grassy terrain, said Carol Capas, a Cochise County sheriff's spokeswoman.

The plane ruptured a gas line and sparked a fire, Ms Capas told the Arizona Daily Star. Officials have been waiting for the flames to extinguish so they can assess the damage.  There were no reported injuries on the ground.

The guard conducts international F-16 pilot training as well as reconnaissance missions, according to its website. The international program by the air guard's 162nd Wing has trainees from Iraq and eight other countries.

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