This year is deadliest yet for US soldiers in Iraq, military admits

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The US military announced the deaths yesterday of five more soldiers and one sailor, making this year the deadliest for American troops, despite a recent downturn, according to an Associated Press count.

At least 853 American military personnel have died in Iraq this year – the highest annual toll since the war began in March 2003, according to AP figures.

The grim milestone passed despite a sharp drop in US and Iraqi deaths here in recent months, after a 30,000-strong US force build-up. There were 39 deaths in October, compared with 65 in September and 84 in August.

Five American soldiers were killed on Monday in two separate roadside bomb attacks, said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the director of the Multi-National Force-Iraq's communications division.

"We lost five soldiers yesterday in two unfortunate incidents, both involving IEDs," he told reporters in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone. Later, the military issued statements saying four of the soldiers had died after an explosion near their vehicle in Kirkuk province, and one was killed in Anbar.

And in a third statement, American forces said a sailor died of injuries received in an explosion on Monday in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.

The US military also said Iraqi troops had found 22 bodies in a mass grave north-west of Baghdad over the weekend. It was the second mass grave found in the area in less than a month.