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.
The two pilots were killed in the crash, which is still under investigation, said Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division.
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.
A recovery team responded to determine the status of the pilots, the military said without providing further details. The cause was yet unknown.
According to Qatar Al-Jazeera TV-channel, the helicopter was shot by rocket.
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.
According to Military Analysis Network, The Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) AH-64A Apache is the U.S. Army's primary attack helicopter. It is a quick-reacting, airborne weapon system that can fight close and deep to destroy, disrupt, or delay enemy forces. The Apache is designed to fight and survive during the day, night, and in adverse weather throughout the world. The principal mission of the Apache is the destruction of high-value targets with the HELLFIRE missile. The Apache has a full range of aircraft survivability equipment and has the ability to withstand hits from rounds up to 23MM in critical areas.