Iraqi state television on Monday showed footage of two men it claimed were pilots of a downed US Apache helicopter, and said they were prisoners of war who would be treated in line with international law.
The footage, calculated to strike a further blow at the pride and prestige of US-led forces waging war to drive President Saddam Hussein from power, came after the United States earlier said it had two Apache pilots missing in action.
The television showed four to five minutes of footage but the men were not heard speaking. They drank tea and did not appear to be injured. It also showed credit cards, personal effects and a driver's license from the US state of Texas.
It said they were "prisoners of war" who would be treated in line with the Geneva Conventions.
Residents here had been preparing to settle down in front of the television to watch Saddam's regime deliver another blow to the aura of US invincibility after officials pledged earlier to show pictures of the pilots.
The broadcast came as heavy bombing was heard in central Baghdad as well as areas to the south of the Iraqi capital, where US and British forces are expected to face fierce resistance from Saddam's elite Republican Guard.
US commanders said two pilots had gone down in clashes with the Guard.
After television Sunday aired footage of five prisoners of war, as well as at least four dead US soldiers lying crumpled and blood-stained in a makeshift morgue, the latest POWs will further dent the image of US control of the skies over Iraq.
Meanwhile, a US soldier was shot dead Monday in central Iraq, and comrades chasing after his assailant killed two Iraqis and captured several others, US officers said.
Captain Andrew Valles, of the First Brigade of the Army's Third Infantry Division, said a tank loader was shot in the head near the town of Najaf, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad.
The circumstances of the death were not clear but Valles said other members of the tank-loading battalion gave chase and killed two Iraqis and captured several others. There was no word whether the gunman was among them.
About 40 US and British soldiers have been killed in combat or accidents in their five-day-old invasion of Iraq aimed at toppling Iraqi regime.