BAGHDAD (AP) – The U.S. command has ordered changes in flight operations after four helicopters were shot down in the last two weeks, the chief military spokesman said yesterday, acknowledging for the first time that the aircraft were lost to hostile fire.

The crashes, which began Jan. 20, follow insurgent claims that they have received new stocks of anti-aircraft weapons – and a recent boast by Sunni militants that “God has granted new ways” to threaten U.S. aircraft. Al-Jazeera aired video late yesterday showing one of the U.S. helicopters being hit in central Iraq and said it came from an insurgent website.

All four helicopters were shot down during a recent increase in violence, which an Interior Ministry official said has claimed nearly 1,000 lives in the past week alone.

At least 103 people were killed or found dead yesterday, most of them in Baghdad, police reported.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters that the investigations into the crashes of three Army and one private helicopters were incomplete but “it does appear they were all the result of some kind of anti-Iraqi ground fire.”

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