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US toll crosses 1,000 in Iraq
September 08, 2004 14:55 IST
The Pentagon announced yesterday that there had been 1,001 military casualties since US-led forces moved in to Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein 18 months ago.
Of those killed, three were civilian countractors. The number of injured has reached 7,000. The US does not give casualty figures for Iraqis, whether friendly or hotile.
Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the 1,000 death toll would soon be passed but played down the grim milestone by noting that thousands of Americans and people of other nationalities have already died in terrorism worldwide and that "the civilized world has to stay on the offensive."
According to a Washington Post tally based on Pentagon records, 997 US service members have died in Iraq since the attack in March 2003. The list includes 248 deaths categorised by the Pentagon as resulting from "non-hostile" causes, such as accidents, but it leaves out three deaths of Defence Department civilian employees.
Noting that "taking the offense has its cost," Rumsfeld said, "and soon the American forces are likely to suffer the 1,000th casualty at the hands of terrorists and extremists in Iraq. When combined with US losses in other theaters in the global war on terror, we have lost well more than a thousand already."
"It should be noted that the civilised world passed the thousandth casualty mark a long time ago. Hundreds were killed in Russia last week to be sure. And this week, of course, on September 11th, 2004, we remember the 3,000 citizens of dozens of countries who were killed on September 11th in 2001," Rumsfeld said.
That date did not mark "the beginning of terrorism," he said. "And the war in Iraq has not created terrorism. International terrorists declared war on the civilized nations of the world sometime back. And over the decades,they have killed many thousands of Americans and citizens of other countries, as well."
The comments, said The Washington Post, appeared aimed at blunting the impact of the 1,000th US military death in Iraq, a milestone that could become an issue in the current presidential election campaign.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in the same news briefing today that the enemy in Iraq "is becoming more sophisticated in its efforts to destabilise the country."
"Make no mistake, we will continue to pursue those who seek to disrupt progress in Iraq," Myers said, adding that "the more aggressive the tactics of the insurgency, the greater the loss of human life."
Meanwhile, the White House paid tributes to those who has lost their lives in Iraq.
"We remember, honour and mourn the loss of all those that made the ultimate sacrifice defending freedom," US Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said. US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry called it a "tragic milestone" and said Americans would always remember their fallen heroes.