|Deaths of US forces, Iraqi civilians decline in September to lowest levels in over a year |
|BAGHDAD (AP) — Deaths among American forces and Iraqi civilians fell dramatically last month to their lowest levels in more than a year, according to figures compiled by the U.S. military, the Iraqi government and The Associated Press. |
The decline signaled a U.S. success in bringing down violence in Baghdad and surrounding regions since Washington completed its infusion of 30,000 more troops on June 15.
A total of 64 American forces died in September — the lowest monthly toll since July 2006.
The decline in Iraqi civilian deaths was even more dramatic, falling from 1,975 in August to 922 last month, a decline of 53.3 percent. The breakdown in September was 844 civilians and 78 police and Iraqi soldiers, according to Iraq’s ministries of Health, Interior and Defense.
In August, AP figures showed 1,809 civilians and 155 police and Iraqi soldiers were killed in sectarian violence.
The civilian death toll has not been so low since June 2006, when 847 Iraqis died.
“There is no silver bullet or one thing that equates as a reason to the drop in Iraqi and Coalition casualties and deaths,” said Col. Steven Boylan, spokesman for U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus.
He credited increased U.S. troop strength, saying that has allowed American forces to step up operations against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Over the weekend, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed more than 60 insurgent and militia fighters in intense battles, with most of the casualties believed to have been al-Qaida militants, officials said.
U.S. aircraft killed more than 20 al-Qaida in Iraq fighters who opened fire on an American air patrol northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. command said Sunday.
The firefight between U.S. aircraft and the insurgent fighters occurred Saturday after the aircraft observed about 25 people carrying AK-47 assault rifles — one brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade — into a palm grove, the military said.
“Shortly after spotting the men, the aircraft were fired upon by the insurgent fighters,” it said.
The command said more than 20 of the group were killed and four vehicles were destroyed. No Iraqi civilians or U.S. soldiers were hurt.
Iraq’s Defense Ministry said in an e-mail Sunday that Iraqi soldiers had killed 44 “terrorists” over the past 24 hours. The operations were centered in Salahuddin and Diyala provinces and around the city of Kirkuk, where the ministry said its soldiers had killed 40 and arrested eight. It said 52 fighters were arrested altogether.
The ministry did not further identify those killed, but use of the word “terrorists” normally indicates al-Qaida.
The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, joined a broad swath of Iraqi politicians in criticizing a nonbinding U.S. Senate resolution seen here as a recipe for splitting the country along sectarian and ethnic lines.
The Senate resolution, adopted last week, proposed reshaping Iraq according to three sectarian or ethnic territories. It calls for a limited central government with the bulk of power going to the country’s Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish regions, envisioning a power-sharing agreement similar to the one that ended the 1990s war in Bosnia. Senator Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, was a prime sponsor.
In a highly unusual, unsigned statement, the U.S. Embassy said resolution would seriously hamper Iraq’s future stability:
“Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself.”
AP correspondents Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Katarina Kratovac and Kim Curtis contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger 10.01.07