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Four servicemembers were injured when their Black Hawk helicopter went down south of Baghdad early Thursday, while another five who were on board were unhurt.

According to military officials, the UH-60 Black Hawk crashed near Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Shortly after the 7:30 a.m. incident, all of the servicemembers had been recovered and the injured had been medically evacuated.

The Associated Press, citing an unnamed Iraqi official, reported that the helicopter had been shot down by an anti-aircraft heavy machine gun. The aircraft came down in a rural area and was quickly cordoned off by American troops, the Iraqi official was quoted as saying.

U.S. Army Maj. Alayne Conway, a spokesman for the newly created Multi-National Division-Center, said Thursday afternoon via e-mail that an investigation was under way into what caused the helicopter to crash. More details were expected to be released in the coming days.

At least eight U.S. helicopters have crashed or been shot down in Iraq since the beginning of the year. U.S. military officials have said they changed flight routes and adjusted defensive tactics in the wake of the shootdowns.

The use of helicopters to ferry troops and supplies throughout Iraq has increased enormously over the past two years, owing mostly to the dangers of roadside bombs. In 2005, U.S. Army aircraft flew 240,000 hours. In 2006 they flew 334,000 hours, while this year they are expected to fly 400,000.

Since 2004, U.S. helicopters have been fired on about 100 times a month, a senior U.S. military officer said in a February briefing in Baghdad. Most of those engagements involved small arms and heavy machine guns, though officials have also said several forms of shoulder-fired missiles have been used.

The helicopters actually are struck by fire roughly 17 times a month, Maj. Gen. Jim Simmons, deputy commander for support of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said in the briefing.


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