updated 2/21/2007 6:12:54 PM ET 2007-02-21T23:12:54

A U.S. helicopter was shot down and crashed north of Baghdad on Wednesday, the military said after initially stating that the chopper made a “hard landing.”

Military officials worry extremists may have recently gained more access to firepower such as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rockets and heavy machine guns — and more expertise to use them. The Black Hawk would be at least the eighth U.S. helicopter to crash or be taken down by hostile fire in the past month.

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, said initial reports indicated the chopper was brought down by "small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades" north of Baghdad, but gave no further details. All nine aboard were taken away on a rescue helicopter, he said.

Military officials have said that militants are increasingly targeting helicopters amid the buildup of U.S. troops in Baghdad, firing simultaneously with an assortment of weapons from different directions.

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