2007 is deadliest year for US in Iraq

Updated: 2007-11-06 22:49

BAGHDAD - The US military on Tuesday announced the deaths of five more soldiers, making 2007 the deadliest year for US troops despite a recent downturn, according to an Associated Press count.

US Army soldiers from Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division search a home in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007. [Agencies]

At least 852 American military personnel have died in Iraq so far this year -- the highest annual toll since the war began in March 2003, according to AP figures.

The grim milestone passed despite a sharp drop in US and Iraqi deaths here in recent months, after a 30,000-strong US force buildup. There were 39 deaths in October, compared to 65 in September and 84 in August.

Five US soldiers were killed Monday in two separate roadside bomb attacks, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, director of the Multi-National Force-Iraq's communications division.

"We lost five soldiers yesterday in two unfortunate incidents, both involving IEDs," Smith told reporters in Baghdad's heavily-guarded Green Zone.

Some 850 troops died in 2004, mostly in larger, more conventional battles like the campaign to cleanse Fallujah of Sunni militants in November, and US clashes with Shiite militiamen in the sect's holy city of Najaf in August.

But the American military in Iraq reached its highest troop levels in Iraq this year -- 165,000. Moreover, the military's decision to send soldiers out of large bases and into Iraqi communities means more troops have seen more "contact with enemy forces" than ever before, said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a US military spokesman in Baghdad.

"It's due to the troop surge, which allowed us to go into areas that were previously safe havens for insurgents," Danielson told the AP on Sunday. "Having more soldiers, and having them out in the communities, certainly contributes to our casualties."

Meanwhile, the US said it planned to release nine Iranian prisoners in the coming days, including two captured when US troops stormed an Iranian government office in Irbil last January. The office was shut after the raid, but it reopened as an Iranian consulate on Tuesday, Iraqi and Iranian officials said.

A military spokesman said Iran appears to have kept its promise to stop the flow into Iraq of bomb-making materials and other weaponry that Washington says has inflamed insurgent violence and caused many American troop casualties.

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