your connection to The Boston Globe

Black Hawk helicopter shot down near Baghdad

BAGHDAD -- Insurgents shot down a US military helicopter with nine people on board north of Baghdad yesterday but no one was killed, the military said.

All nine were evacuated and there were no serious injuries, it said in a statement. It was the eighth downing of a helicopter in Iraq in a month.

A military spokeswoman said it appeared the Black Hawk helicopter was brought down by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Iraqi police captain Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said he saw some type of projectile hitting the helicopter before it came down in a rural area north of Baghdad.

"I saw a ball of fire hitting the aircraft and smoke coming out of the helicopter as it came down," Mashhadani said.

Major General William Caldwell, the chief US military spokesman in Iraq, said at an earlier news conference the helicopter made a "hard landing," without giving details.

Insurgents have shot down eight helicopters since Jan. 20, killing 28 people, mainly American soldiers.

The incidents have raised questions about whether insurgents are using new tactics, such as studying aircraft flight patterns, or have acquired sophisticated weaponry.