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US toll in Iraq nears '91 war deaths
( 2003-07-09 14:10) (Agencies)

The Pentagon on Tuesday raised its count of Americans killed by hostile fire in Iraq since the war began in March to 143, a figure that approaches the 147 killed in the 1991 Gulf War.

A US Army Carlisle Barracks funeral honors team gun formation stands in the center of a road in front of the Trinity Epicscopal Church in Bethlehem, Pa., Tuesday July 8, 2003, as the flag-draped casket of US Army First Sgt. Christopher Coffin is carried into the church for a memorial service. Coffin, 51, an Army reservist, was killed in Iraq last week under circumstances currently under investigation by the Army. [AP]

When President Bush declared major combat operations had ended on May 1, the number killed in action stood at 114. Since then, guerrilla-style attacks have taken another 29 American lives, and Bush as well as US military commanders have said the war is not yet over.

"Rough road behind, rough road ahead," Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded US forces in the war, said Monday at a ceremony in which he handed over command of the operation to Gen. John Abizaid.

In the latest slayings, a roadside bomb killed one soldier traveling in an Army convoy Monday, and on Sunday night an American was shot to death in a Baghdad gun battle. Also Sunday, a US soldier was shot and killed at close range while drinking a soda at Baghdad University.

On Tuesday the US Central Command said a US soldier attached to the 101st Airborne Division died of a gunshot wound in a non-combat incident in Balad, north of Baghdad, on Monday. The name of the soldier was being withheld until relatives could be notified.

In recent weeks, resistance forces have launched about a dozen attacks a day on American troops. Pentagon officials say the attacks are coming from a variety of anti-occupation forces, including former Baath Party members, paramilitaries, non-Iraqi fighters and remnants of Saddam Hussein's security forces.

The total number of Americans who have died in Iraq since the conflict began March 20 stands at 212, including the death Monday in Balad. That number includes 69 deaths in accidents and other non-hostile circumstances. About two-thirds of the non-hostile deaths have come since May 1.

In the 1991 war, 147 were killed by hostile fire. The war began Jan. 17 and ended with a cease-fire on Feb. 28. There also were 235 non-hostile deaths, including a number of soldiers who died during the US buildup in Saudi Arabia and others who died in Kuwait after the fighting ended.

In the current war in Iraq, the 212 deaths include 123 from the Army, 80 from the Marine Corps, five from the Air Force and four from the Navy.

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