Pilot dies after F-16 crashes in Arizona

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(Credit: Eric Harris/U.S. Air Force)

DOUGLAS, Ariz. — An Iraqi pilot was killed while training with the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday, according to U.S. Central Command.

The pilot, Brig. Gen. Rasid Mohammed Sadiq, was flying an F-16 on a night training mission when it crashed in southeastern Arizona.

“We are in a tough fight together, and our hope is that Gen. Sadiq’s comrades will be able to find strength in his service and honor his sacrifice through their own continued service in the coming days,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of CENTCOM, said in a press release.

The fighter jet belonged to the Iraqi Air Force, and rescue efforts were continuing, the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard said.

The 162nd Wing, headquartered in Tucson, specializes in the training of international F-16 Fighting Falcon aircrews.

The crash occurred about 8 p.m. Wednesday about 5 miles east of Douglas Municipal Airport, sparking a fire. The airport is near the U.S.-Mexico border.

“You can smell the oil and grass burning and some sort of plastic burning,” Omar Estrada, told CNN affiliate KGUN. Estrada captured video of the crash aftermath on his cell phone. “It was right in your face. My clothes still smell like it.”

Firefighters were able to contain the grass fire before it spread.

“The embassy staff and I offer our prayers for the safety of the pilot and to his family, which is anxiously waiting an update on his status,” said Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States.