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Iraqi pilot killed when Tucson-based F-16 crashes near Safford

An Iraqi F-16 fighter jet based at Tucson International Airport crashed Tuesday afternoon near Safford, Ariz., officials said. The student pilot, Capt. Noor Faleh Rassan Al-Khazali, was killed, officials said.

The pilot's death and nationality were confirmed by 1st Lt. Lacey Roberts of the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing.

Al-Khazali was identified by the Iraqi air force, but officials did not provide his age or home town.

The Fighting Falcon, one of several belonging to Iraq that are stationed in Tucson for pilot instruction, crashed about 20 miles northwest of Safford around 3 p.m. while flying a routine training mission, Roberts said.

The crash site is near Fort Thomas, in Graham County, Sheriff P.J. Allred said Tuesday night.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our wingman during this difficult time. Today we are mourning the loss of an airman and friend alongside our Iraqi partners," said Brig. Gen. Andrew MacDonald, commander of the 162nd Wing.

The crash is the second of an Iraqi F-16 training in Tucson since 2015, while several other fatal incidents have involved F-16s from Arizona's Luke Air Force Base.

The 162nd Wing, in addition of training U.S. personnel, also conducts training for pilots of allied nations, including Iraq, Singapore, Oman and NATO countries, such as Poland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

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The air wing is based at TIA.

"The Air Force has assembled an interim safety board to investigate the incident," Roberts said.

In June 2015, an Iraqi pilot was killed when his F-16 crashed near Douglas on a 162nd training mission.

In November 2015, an F-16 from Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamogordo, crashed in New Mexico, but the pilot ejected safely in that incident. That F-16 belonged to a unit detached from Luke AFB in Glendale, Ariz.

In January 2016, a Taiwanese pilot was killed when an F-16 fighter jet based at Luke crashed near Bagdad, Ariz., west of Prescott. 

In February 2017, one person was killed and another hurt during a U.S. Air Force live-fire training accident involving F-16 fighter planes in New Mexico, based out of Luke.

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An Iraqi F-16 taxis at TIA.