U.S. military helicopter crashes in Iraq, 33 killed in suicide bombings

A U.S. military attack helicopter with two pilots aboard crashed in a field north of Baghdad on Monday morning, witnesses and the U.S. military said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed at about 11:45 a.m. (0745 GMT) in Mishahda, 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Baghdad, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said. The helicopter was one of two flying together at the time, the reporter said. He also heard heavy gunfire at the time of the crash, and saw white smoke billowing from the helicopter before it burst into flames and slammed into the ground.

According to Qatar Al-Jazeera TV-channel, the helicopter was shot by rocket. Up to 9 servicemen could have been aboard.

A recovery team responded to determine the status of the pilots, the military said without providing further details. The cause was yet unknown.

Also on Monday morning a roadside explosion killed two civilians in a separate attack in Baghdad. The bomb exploded near a police patrol at Antar Square in the capital's northern Azamiyah neighborhood, police 1st Lt. Mohammed al-Hayali said. A woman was among the two dead and another person was wounded as a result of the explosion, he said to AP.

The attack followed three suicide bombers who struck a police headquarters, an army base and a hospital around Mosul on Sunday, killing 33 people, including 15 police officers, in a setback to efforts to rebuild the northern city's police force.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks in Mosul - the country's third-largest city. The claim was made on an Internet site used by militants, but AP says, it could not be verified.

Earlier U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said it may take as long as 12 years to defeat the insurgents. He said Iraq's security forces will have to finish the job because American and foreign troops will have left the country by then.

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