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US copter crashes in Iraq; hit by rocket, witness says

Both pilots killed; 4 dead in bombing

BAGHDAD -- A US Apache attack helicopter crashed yesterday north of Baghdad, killing both pilots, after a witness said he saw the aircraft hit by a rocket that ''destroyed it completely in the air."

Later yesterday, a car bomb exploded between a movie house and Sunni mosque in eastern Baghdad, killing at least four people and wounding 16, authorities said. The New Baghdad area is packed with small shops and markets selling everything from vegetables to clothes, and it usually is crowded with shoppers in the hours before curfew.

The AH-64 crashed in Mishahda, 20 miles north of the capital, and witness Mohammed Naji told Associated Press Television News he saw two helicopters flying toward Mishahda when ''a rocket hit one of them and destroyed it completely in the air."

The two pilots were killed in the crash, which is under investigation, said Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Kent, spokesman for the Third Infantry Division. At least 1,737 members of the US military have died since the Iraq war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In Baghdad, two people were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in the northern Azamiyah neighborhood, police First Lieutenant Mohammed al-Hayali said.

The relentless carnage has killed at least 1,338 people since April 28, when Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shi'ite-dominated government. With the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency targeting the Shi'ite majority, the wave of killings has raised fears of a possible civil war.

Jaafari said in London that two years would be ''more than enough" to establish security in Iraq. Following talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, Jaafari said success depends on building up Iraq's own security forces, controlling its porous borders, and pushing ahead with the political process.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday that 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 other foreign troops will have left the country by then.

Asked about Jaafari's comment about a two-year period, Rumsfeld said yesterday: ''There are so many variables that I would be reluctant to pretend that I could look into that crystal ball and say, 'X number of months or X number of years.' I can't."

Also yesterday, police detained 48 suspected insurgents in Iskandariyah, Jibbala, and Haswa in northern Hillah, police Captain Muthana Khalid said. The three-day raid, which ended early yesterday, took place south of Baghdad, part of ''Operation Lightning."

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