2 Americans killed in Iraq, but December toll still low

December 15, 2007|By Tina Susman | Tina Susman,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military said yesterday that two American soldiers had died in separate incidents, but despite the latest deaths, December was shaping up to be the safest month for U.S. forces in Iraq since 2004.

The military gave few details of the most recent casualties. Both occurred Thursday. One soldier died of wounds suffered when a bomb exploded during a foot patrol, and another was killed by gunfire in the capital.

In the first two weeks of last month, 23 American military personnel had been killed, compared with 10 this month, according to the Department of Defense and www.icasualties.org.

If the current pace of less than one death per day is maintained, December could be the least deadly month since February 2004, when 20 U.S. troops died. A total of 3,891 American troops have died since the war began in March 2003.

U.S. officials attribute the downward trend in deaths to security gains resulting from Iraqis' rejection of insurgents and to increased troop strength resulting from the addition of 28,500 American forces sent to Iraq earlier this year.

These factors also have led to a drop in bombings and other attacks on civilians, say Iraqi and American officials.

Nevertheless, the country remains far from calm. Shiite Muslim clergymen used Friday prayers to condemn bombings in the southern city of Amarah that killed 28 people.

In the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, in northeastern Baghdad, Sheik Suhail Aqabi said the blasts in normally quiet Amarah were aimed at provoking violence so that security forces would have an excuse to crack down on the Shiite city.

He urged Iraqi security forces "not to be a sword in the hands of the occupiers," a reference to U.S. troops.

Aqabi was speaking on behalf of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has long urged the ouster of U.S. forces and who accuses them of targeting his followers.

Tina Susman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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