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Iraqi casualties fall to record low in May

Iraqi casualties in May fell by more than half compared with the previous month and were at a record low for the years for which statistics are available, according to figures released Sunday.

The statistics suggested that insurgents have not been able to sustain the onslaught of attacks they mounted in April.

The U.S. military toll, meanwhile, was at its highest level since September, with 24 deaths recorded. On Sunday, the military reported the accidental deaths of two soldiers, one in a vehicle accident in Tallil, south of Baghdad, and one from a noncombat injury in Tikrit, in northern Iraq.

The U.S. count included the deaths of five soldiers who were gunned down at a combat stress clinic May 11. One of their comrades, Sgt. John M. Russell, has been charged in the shooting. Other than that incident, U.S. casualties were in line with previous months.

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According to Iraq’s Interior Ministry, 165 Iraqis died in violence in May, 134 of them civilians and 31 of them members of the Iraqi security forces. That’s down from 355 deaths in April, 290 of them in bombings that mostly targeted civilians. The toll also was lower than the 187 deaths in January.

The independent website icasualties.org, which monitors casualties in Iraq based on news reports, counted 182 deaths in May, but that is still lower than the 187 the website recorded in January, which had been the lowest figure since the it began counting Iraqi civilian deaths in March 2005.

Violence levels are sharply down from their peak in November 2006 when, according to the United Nations, 3,462 Iraqis were slain.

But fears are widespread that violence will rise again after U.S. forces complete their scheduled withdrawal from Iraqi cities by June 30, under the terms of the security pact signed with Iraq in December.

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liz.sly@latimes.com


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