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Two U.S. pilots, 3 soldiers killed in Iraq

Shiite mosque destroyed in Diyala province

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and two military pilots died after their helicopter was apparently shot down while on patrol, the U.S. military said Sunday.

The AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter went down west of Yousifiah on Saturday evening while conducting a combat air patrol, the U.S. military said in a statement. Officials believe the aircraft was shot down.

"The soldiers' remains were recovered following aircraft-recovery operations at the crash site," the statement said. The names of the pilots are being withheld until relatives are notified.

In central Baghdad, meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers, the military said in a news release.

The two soldiers, who were assigned to Multi-National Division-Baghdad, were walking on patrol Saturday when the bomb exploded, the military said.

The other fatality was a soldier from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division who died Saturday from nonbattle-related injuries while participating in an operation in Kirkuk province in northern Iraq.

Since the war in Iraq began, 2,332 U.S. service members have died. The death toll of 29 in March was the lowest monthly total since 20 troops died in February 2004.

When asked Friday what might be contributing to the decline in deaths among U.S. troops, the commanding general of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad cited several factors.

"What I would tell you is the Iraqi security forces' capability is getting better," U.S. Army Major Gen. James Thurman said. "And I attribute to a lot of the decline in our fatalities is the alertness and the training levels of our soldiers. And I'm very much impressed with that.

"And we worked very hard before we came back into Iraq because we knew what the nature of the fight would be."

Shiite mosque attacked

Insurgent bombers working in the middle of the night destroyed a Shiite mosque in Diyala province, an Iraqi official said on Sunday, but the U.S. military disputed the report.

The bombers planted explosives around the small mosque in Kibba village and destroyed the shrine at about 3 a.m., the official with the Diyala Joint Coordination Center said. There were not reports of casualties.

U.S. military personnel visited the site and said there had been no bombing, according to military officials in Baghdad said.

Kibba is about 9 miles (15 kilometers) east of Baquba, the provincial capital.

Also Sunday, insurgents bombed three stores selling music CDs in southern Baquba, the official said. Baquba is about 37 miles (60 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Diplomats press Iraq lawmakers

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited Baghdad, meeting with lawmakers charged with forming an Iraqi government.

On the flight to Baghdad, Straw said that when he visited Iraq five weeks ago, he was assured that a new government would be put together quickly.

"Sadly ... this coalition formation has taken much longer," he said, and cited "significant international concerns" about the delay.

"I think we both understand how hard it is, but the Iraqi people need their government and their leaders, Rice said." (Full story)

Other developments

  • Journalist Jill Carroll arrived home in the United States on Sunday and was reunited with her family amid controversy over her appearance in a propaganda video made by her former kidnappers. (Full story)
  • The brother of a prominent Sunni Arab politician was apparently kidnapped last week while driving from Baghdad to Salaheddin province, an official with the Iraq National Dialogue Front said Sunday. The missing man, Taha al-Mutlaq, is the brother of Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front party, which won 11 seats in the parliamentary elections.
  • Iraqi police found four bodies, all shot in the head, Sunday in various neighborhoods of Baghdad, an official with Baghdad emergency police said.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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