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Death toll slows in Iraq

A man sits on the doorstep of his home in west Baghdad on Thursday. Violence in the country has diminished.

Associated Press

A man sits on the doorstep of his home in west Baghdad on Thursday. Violence in the country has diminished.

BAGHDAD — The monthly U.S. toll in Iraq fell to its lowest point since the war began, with 11 American deaths as July drew to a close Thursday after the departure of the last surge brigade.

Iraqis also are dying at dramatically lower numbers with the war in its sixth year. July saw the lowest civilian toll since December 2005, though a series of suicide bombings this week and rising ethnic tensions in northern Iraq reflect the fragility of the security successes.

The drastic decline in violence over the past year has led to increasing optimism among American commanders, who have been wary of declaring success after past lulls proved short-lived. It also has become a key issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.

"The progress is still reversible," President Bush said Thursday in Washington. But he said a new "degree of durability in gains" should permit him to announce further U.S. troop reductions later this year.

The last of five combat brigades sent as part of the so-called surge returned home in July, leaving about 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. That is still higher than the roughly 130,000-135,000 who were there before the troop increase.

But the American soldiers appear to be taking on more of a peacekeeping role after many Sunni and Shiite extremists agreed to stop fighting.

The U.S. military has pointed to a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq and a truce by anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as playing a large part in the drop in violence, along with the troop buildup and improvements in training Iraqi security forces.

Baghdad — the site of some of the worst sectarian violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war — has been turned into a maze of concrete walls and checkpoints that make it difficult for militants to function.

The July 2008 figure could rise, as the military sometimes announces deaths days after they occur.

By the numbers

510 Iraqi civilians and security force
members killed in July

2,021 Iraqi civilians and security force members killed in July 2007

11 American fatalities in July, including six from nonhostile causes

80 U.S. fatalities
in July 2007

3 Consecutive months with relatively lower violence levels for Iraqi civilians

Also Thursday

Violence: A suicide car bomber killed three police officers, and a judge died of gunshot wounds in Mosul. Four bullet-riddled bodies, including those of three women, also were found in the city a day after an al-Qaida front group warned it was launching a new campaign of violence there.

Fighting: The U.S.-backed Iraqi military pressed forward with a new operation meant to rout insurgents from rural safe havens in Diyala province. Insurgents clashed with U.S.-allied Sunni Arab fighters and killed one of them near the village of Waib, south of the provincial capital of Baqubah. But nearly 200 suspected militants have been captured since the operation began on Tuesday.

Shorter tours: President Bush cut new military tours of duty in Iraq to 12 months from 15 months.

Death toll slows in Iraq 07/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 9:32am]
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