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Overall US death toll in Iraq hits 4,000

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080324/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq Overall US death toll in Iraq hits 4,000 By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago BAGHDAD -
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 24, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080324/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq

      Overall US death toll in Iraq hits 4,000

      By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago

      BAGHDAD - The overall U.S. death toll in Iraq rose to
      4,000 after four soldiers were killed in a roadside
      bombing in Baghdad, a grim milestone that is likely to
      fuel calls for the withdrawal of American forces as
      the war enters its sixth year.

      The American deaths occurred Sunday, the same day
      rockets and mortars pounded the U.S.-protected Green
      Zone in Baghdad and a wave of attacks left at least 61
      Iraqis dead nationwide.

      An Iraqi military spokesman said Monday that troops
      had found rocket launching pads in different areas in
      predominantly Shiite eastern Baghdad that had been
      used by extremists to fire on the Green Zone, which
      houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government
      headquarters.

      "We hope to deal with this issue professionally to
      avoid civilian casualties," said spokesman Qassim
      al-Moussawi.

      The four soldiers with Multi-National Division —
      Baghdad were on a patrol when their vehicle was struck
      at about 10 p.m. Sunday in southern Baghdad, the U.S.
      military said. Another soldier was wounded in the
      attack — less than a week after the fifth anniversary
      of the conflict.

      Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, a military spokesman,
      expressed condolences to all the families of soldiers
      killed in Iraq, saying each death is "equally tragic."

      "There have been some significant gains. However, this
      enemy is resilient and will not give up, nor will we,"
      he said. "There's still a lot of work to be done."

      Last year, U.S. military deaths spiked as U.S. troops
      sought to regain control of Baghdad and surrounding
      areas. The death toll has seesawed since, with 2007
      ending as the deadliest year for American troops at
      901 deaths. That was 51 more deaths than 2004, the
      second deadliest year for U.S. soldiers.

      The Associated Press count of 4,000 deaths is based on
      U.S. military reports and includes eight civilians who
      worked for the Department of Defense.

      Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians also have been
      killed since the U.S.-led invasion on March 20, 2003,
      although estimates of a specific figure vary widely
      due to the difficulty in collecting accurate
      information.

      One widely respected tally by Iraq Body Count, which
      collects figures based mostly on media reports,
      estimates that 82,349 to 89,867 Iraqi civilians have
      lost their lives in the conflict.

      Overall attacks also have decreased against Iraqi
      civilians but recent weeks have seen several
      high-profile bombings, underscoring the fragile
      security situation and the resilience of both Sunni
      and Shiite extremist groups.

      Mosul, Iraq's third largest city about 225 miles
      northwest of Baghdad, has been described as the last
      major urban area where the Sunni extremist al-Qaida
      group maintains a significant presence.

      The persistent violence has led to strong public
      opposition to the war in the United States, with both
      Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Barack Obama
      and Hillary Clinton promising a quick pullout if they
      are elected.

      President Bush has insisted the decline in violence
      shows his strategy is working and needs more time, a
      position taken by Republican presidential candidate
      Sen. John McCain.

      Iraq's National Security Adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie
      said he sympathized with the American losses but
      warned against pulling out U.S. troops before Iraqi
      forces are ready to take over their own security and
      the situation is sufficiently stable.

      "Honestly, this war is well worth fighting. This war,
      we are talking about war against global terror," he
      said Sunday in an interview with CNN.

      No group claimed responsibility for the Green Zone
      attacks, but suspicion fell on Shiite extremists based
      on the eastern areas from which the weapons appeared
      to have been fired.

      At least 10 civilians were killed and 20 more were
      wounded in rocket or mortar blasts in scattered areas
      of eastern Baghdad, some probably due to rounds aimed
      at the Green Zone that fell short.

      The U.S. Embassy said at least five people were
      injured but no Americans were reported killed in the
      Green Zone attacks, which sent dark plumes of smoke
      rising over the district in the heart of the capital.

      A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity
      because the official was not authorized to release the
      information, said those injured included an American
      and four third-country nationals, meaning they were
      not American, British or Iraqi.

      The heavily fortified area has frequently come under
      fire by Shiite and Sunni extremists, but the attacks
      have tapered off as violence declined over the past
      year.

      The attacks followed a series of clashes last week
      between U.S. and Iraqi forces and factions of the
      Mahdi Army, the biggest Shiite militia loyal to
      radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

      Al-Sadr has declared a cease-fire through mid-August
      to purge the militia of criminal and dissident
      elements but it has come under severe strains in
      recent weeks.

      Al-Sadr's followers have accused the Shiite-dominated
      government of exploiting the cease-fire to target the
      cleric's supporters in advance of provincial elections
      expected this fall and demanded the release of
      supporters rounded up in recent weeks.

      ___

      Associated Press writer Bushra Juhi contributed to
      this report.
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