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U.S. death toll breaks 2,000 mark in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The American death toll reached 2,001 yesterday with the announcement that a soldier died in an accident the night before. Three mostly Sunni Arab parties said they have formed a coalition to compete in upcoming parliamentary elections as the minority moves to consolidate its power in the political arena.

The soldier, whose identity was withheld pending notification of relatives, died in a vehicle accident Tuesday evening near Camp Bucca, a U.S. detention center in southern Iraq, the military said. The statement raised by one the number of U.S. service members killed in the war a day after the somber milestone of 2,000 was reached.

A roadside bomb also destroyed a Humvee in a U.S. convoy yesterday, but no American casualties were reported in that attack.

A U.S. warplane also struck a suspected insurgent safe house near the Syrian border yesterday and may have killed a senior al-Qaida in Iraq figure identified only as Abu Dua who it said assisted in smuggling Syrian and Saudi fighters into Iraq, the U.S. military said.

A military statement said intelligence sources indicated that Abu Dua – who allegedly was part of an al-Qaida network along the Syrian border – was in the house at the time of the attack but his body has not been recovered. The statement also accused him of kidnapping and executing people after trying them in makeshift religious courts.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday observed a moment of silence in honor of the fallen Americans.

“We owe them a deep debt of gratitude for their courage, for their valor, for their strength, for their commitment to our country,” said Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist.

The milestone came amid growing doubts among the U.S. public about the Iraq conflict, launched in March 2003 to destroy Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. No such arms were ever found.

In Iraq, many people heard of the 2,000 figure on Arab satellite TV channels such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.

Some Iraqis complained that the attention was misguided because far more Iraqis have died in the conflict than Americans. No one knows an exact number of Iraqi deaths, but there is some consensus that an independent count of roughly 30,000 is a relatively credible tally of Iraqi civilian deaths.

An Associated Press count of war-related Iraqi deaths from the time Iraq’s elected government took office April 28 through Tuesday found 3,870 Iraqi deaths in that period alone. More than two-thirds were civilians while the rest were Iraqi security personnel.

Iraq Body Count, a British research group that compiles its figures from reports by the major news agencies and British and U.S. newspapers, has said 30,051 Iraqis have been killed since the war started.

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