A U.S. helicopter was shot down early Sunday afternoon near the provincial capital Najaf during a pitched battle with insurgents.
The helicopter is said to have been shot down amid heavy fighting near Al Zarga which is about 5 miles from Najaf and about 80 miles south of Baghdad. Witnesses said the helicopter lost control and crashed in flames after it appeared to have been hit by a missile fired from the ground.
This comes after an increase in troops of just over 20,000 men was proposed by President Bush at his State of the Union Address. The fighting in Iraq seems only to have picked up since the proposal with American forces reporting at least 77 fatalities this month.
This follows the American military their third worst day in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion which saw them losing 25 men including 12 in a similar helicopter downing just 8 days ago. There was no immediate word on casualties.