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Lowest US monthly deaths in Iraq

Iraqi soldier on patrol as US helicopter flies overhead
Iraqi forces have increasingly taken a front line role in securing their country

The US military has announced the death of a soldier in northern Iraq, which brings the toll for July to 12, the lowest since the 2003 US invasion.

"A US soldier died in a non-combat related incident while conducting operations in Nineveh province July 31," a military statement said.

More than 4,000 US troops have been killed in Iraq, with the monthly toll occasionally exceeding 120 deaths.

Iraqi forces have been taking greater security responsibility recently.

A breakdown of the July deaths shows that only five of the troops died in hostile incidents.

Three were described as non-combat or non-hostile incidents, there was one fatal "vehicle incident" and one died of natural causes.

The toll also includes two soldiers whose bodies were found on 10 July after they went missing following an ambush south of Baghdad in May 2007.

Recent reports say Iraqis have also been dying at a much lower rate than previous months.

A tally by AP news agency said at least 510 Iraqis were killed in July, including civilians and security force members, a 75% drop from the 2,021 deaths recorded by the same method in July 2007.

The reduction in deaths comes in the wake of a US security clampdown, ceasefires by Shia Muslim militias and a popular movement among Sunni Muslims to expel Islamist extremists from their midst.




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