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The Skies Above Iraq Are Getting Deadly Thanks to the Islamic State's Shoulder-Fired Rockets

A helicopter of Iraqi army controls Amirli area after the Kurdish forces, Shiite militias and Iraqi army broke the siege of army groups led by Islamic State in Amirli, Saladin, Iraq on 2 September, 2014. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD (TheBlaze/AP) — They've tried to take down American aircraft before.

They've written a how-to guide on bushwhacking Apache helicopters.

On Saturday, they scored a deadly hit.

Islamic State jihadists shot down an Iraqi military helicopter Saturday, officials said, killing the two pilots onboard and raising fresh concerns about the extremists' ability to attack aircraft amid ongoing U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

A helicopter of Iraqi army controls Amirli area after the Kurdish forces, Shiite militias and Iraqi army broke the siege of army groups led by Islamic State in Amirli, Saladin, Iraq on 2 September, 2014. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) An Iraqi army helicopter flies over Amirli, Saladin, Iraq on 2 September, 2014. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The attack happened in the Shiite holy city of Samarra, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad. A senior Defense Ministry official told The Associated Press the Sunni militants used a shoulder-fired rocket launcher to shoot down the EC635 helicopter on the outskirts of the city. An army official corroborated the information. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to speak to journalists.

The EC635, built by Airbus Helicopters, is used for transport, surveillance and combat.

A Swiss army airman guides a EC 635 helicopter for landing at an army base in Davos where the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum will start on the upcoming Wednesday, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. 3500 soldiers are mobilized to secure the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) A Swiss army airman guides an EC 635 helicopter for landing at an army base in Davos. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The militants shot down at least two other Iraqi military helicopters near the city of Beiji in October. Some fear the militants may have captured ground-to-air missiles capable of shooting down airplanes when they overran Iraqi and Syrian army bases this summer.

European airlines including Virgin Atlantic, KLM and Air France, U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines and Dubai-based Emirates changed their commercial flight plans over the summer to avoid Iraqi airspace. The U.S.-trained Iraqi military virtually collapsed in the face of the militants' blitz, shedding their uniforms and abandoning sophisticated weapons near the northern city of Mosul.

The Islamic State holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-styled caliphate.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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