US military death toll in Iraq hits 2,500

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The Independent US

A total of 2,500 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the US and British invasion three years ago, the Pentagon revealed.

The military did not give details of the casualty or casualties that moved the total up to this latest dark milestone, which was announced as Congress began a largely symbolic debate about the war. General Carter Ham, deputy operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "I don't know that there's ever a way that you can thank a family for the sacrifice that they make in the loss of a loved one. Yet it's important to remember that ... there is a mission and there is a greater good which sometimes necessitates tremendous sacrifice."

The news comes after a slight boost received by President George Bush's poll numbers after the killing last week in Iraq of the senior al-Qa'ida fighter Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. However, Bush's numbers remain low with an approval rating of just 38 per cent.

Despite Zarqawi's killing, the US public remains divided over the war. According to the Pentagon totals, 1,972 personnelhave been killed in action in Iraq, and another 528 died from other non-hostile causes. A further 18,490 troops have been wounded. A total of 113 British troops have been killed. The Pentagon claims not to keep records of civilian deaths in Iraq, though an independent study published more than 18 months ago in The Lancet medical journal suggested that more than 100,000 could have been killed.

The death toll recorded by the media and collated by the Iraq Body Count (IBC) group currently stands at a minimum of 38,355, though the IBC admits most civilian deaths probably go unreported.