5 U.S. Troops Added To Death Toll in Iraq

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 29, 2006

BAGHDAD, Dec. 28 -- The U.S. military death toll in Iraq this month continued to rise as officials reported Thursday that five more American service members had died.

The latest deaths brought to 100 the number of service members killed in December, according to iCasualties.org, an independent Web site that tracks military fatalities.

Most were killed in Iraq's western Anbar province, where Sunni Arab insurgents are aggressively fighting U.S.-led forces, and most were killed by roadside bombs, according to a Washington Post analysis of data.

The deadliest month this year has been October, with 105 American military fatalities, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Defense. The number of service members who have died since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 is 2,979.

December's death toll has been climbing steadily, with most of the daily attacks against American service members occurring in Anbar province and the capital. While U.S. troops are fighting the insurgency in Anbar, they are also trying to calm sectarian violence in Baghdad.

"This has been a difficult month for coalition forces," Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, told reporters Wednesday. "You know, our deepest condolences go out to those families, to their friends -- of those who have lost somebody very near and dear to them this month."

As of Thursday, the Pentagon's official death toll for December was 94. The department waits 24 hours after next-of-kin notification to include a fatality in its official tally. The U.S. military in Iraq puts out news releases before a loss is officially counted but withholds names.

On Thursday, one soldier died and another was wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near their patrol north of Baghdad, the military said. A day before, the soldiers had been involved in the capture of four suspected insurgents believed to have planted a rocket on a main road, according to the military.

On Wednesday, a roadside bomb detonated near a patrol southwest of the capital. Two soldiers were killed and one was wounded, the military said. The unit had detained five suspected insurgents the week before after watching them place a bomb in a road.

Also Wednesday, a soldier was killed and two were wounded while clearing a road in east Baghdad, the military said. The same day, in Anbar province, a Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 was killed in combat.

The military also announced that Iraqi soldiers, with the help of U.S. military advisers, had captured a suspected cell leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq believed to be responsible for the June kidnapping of two American soldiers who were later tortured and killed.

On Tuesday, Iraqi forces conducted an air assault to capture the suspected al-Qaeda leader in the town of Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad. The U.S. military declined to name the suspect.

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