U.S. Helicopter Crash Kills 2 in Iraq

A U.S. Apache attack helicopter (search) crashed Monday 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 Monday, a car bomb exploded between a movie house and a Sunni Arab 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 (search) 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 Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division (search). At least 1,737 members of the U.S. 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 1st Lt. Mohammed al-Hayali said.

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

Al-Jaafari said in London that two years would be "more than enough" to establish security in Iraq.

Following talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, al-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 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.

Asked about al-Jaafari's comment about a two-year period, Rumsfeld said Monday: "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."

The violence has continued despite crackdowns and U.S.-led offensives on insurgent strongholds, showing that militants have the depth and resilience to pin down a large U.S. military contingent as well as a fledgling Iraqi security force. Several of the campaigns have targeted foreign fighters along the Syrian border.

Rumsfeld also acknowledged that U.S. officials have met with insurgents in Iraq, after a British newspaper reported two recent meetings took place at a villa north of Baghdad.

Insurgent commanders "apparently came face to face" with four American officials during meetings on June 3 and June 13 at a villa near Balad, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, The Sunday Times reported.

When asked Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" about the two meetings, Rumsfeld said, "I think there have probably been many more than that."

He insisted the talks did not involve negotiations with al-Zarqawi and other suspected terrorists but were rather facilitating efforts by the Shiite-led government to reach out to minority Sunni Arabs. Three insurgent groups denied that meetings took place.

Blair said it was sensible for Britain and its allies to engage elements of the insurgency to promote stability.

"It's our job politically to pull as many people into the political process. That is an engagement not just by the Iraqi government, but by the Americans, ourselves, others. Everybody," Blair told a news conference.

"We are not compromising our position with terrorism or any of the rest of it. We are simply trying, perfectly sensibly, to pull as many people into the democratic fold as possible."

Former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said militants crossing into Iraq from Syria are not backed by the government in Damascus.

"There are infiltrators, but that does not necessarily mean that they are supported by the Syrian government," he said Monday in Egypt. "(The infiltrators) are misusing Syria's hospitality and cross into Iraq."

Allawi said Syrian and Iraqi officials were discussing setting up a buffer zone along the border to stop infiltration.

Last week, the United States and Iraq reiterated that Syria was not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from entering Iraq. Syria rejected the allegations, arguing it is impossible to seal its 360-mile border with Iraq.

On Sunday, three bombers struck a police headquarters, an army base and a hospital around Mosul, killing 33 people in a setback to rebuilding the northern city's police force that was riven by intimidation from insurgents seven months ago.

The group Al Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the attacks in Iraq's third-largest city. The claim, which was made on an Internet site used by militants, could not be verified.

The attacks in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, began when a bomber with explosives hidden under watermelons in a pickup truck slammed into a downtown police station near a market. U.S. Army Capt. Mark Walter said 10 policemen and two civilians were killed.

Less than two hours later, a bomber blew himself outside an Iraqi army base on Mosul's outskirts, killing 16 people, Walter said. Most were civilian workers, he said.

A third attacker walked into Mosul's Jumhouri Teaching Hospital in the afternoon and blew himself up, killing five policemen. The blast blew a hole in the building and injured some police officers outside. Smoke and flames then poured out.

Some of Iraq's most feared terror groups — including the Ansar al-Sunnah Army and Al Qaeda in Iraq — operate in Mosul.

At least 18 people were killed in attacks elsewhere in Iraq on Sunday, including a U.S. soldier whose convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad and six Iraqi soldiers who were gunned down outside their base north of the capital.

On Monday, police detained 48 suspected insurgents in Iskandariyah, Jibbala and Haswa in northern Hillah, police Capt. Muthana Khalid said. The three-day raid, which ended early Monday, took place south of Baghdad, part of "Operation Lightning." Police also seized weapons and a potential car bomb.