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August Marks First Fatality-Free Month for US Military in Iraq

A US soldier attached to the Golden Lions forces walks past a girl carrying her doll, during a patrol in the city of Kirkuk, July 20, 2011

The U.S. military says no American service members died in Iraq in August, making it the first month without any U.S. troop fatalities in the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The milestone is a sharp contrast to June, when 15 American troops died in the deadliest month for U.S. personnel in Iraq in two years. All but one of those deaths resulted from hostile action.

The independent website says the total number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 4,474. The monthly rate of American troop deaths declined to single digits in mid-2009, but each month had at least one combat or non-combat-related U.S. fatality, until August 2011.

But, violence continued to kill scores of Iraqis last month. The French news agency says Iraqi government figures released Thursday show 239 people were killed, 155 of them civilians, and the others Iraqi security personnel. The total number of fatalities was down 20 from the previous month.

Fewer than 50,000 U.S. military personnel remain in Iraq. All of them are set to withdraw by the end of this year. But, U.S. and Iraqi officials are discussing the possibility of keeping some U.S. troops in the country after the deadline to continue training Iraqi security personnel.

In another development, Iraqi police say 35 terror suspects escaped from prison in the northern city of Mosul on Thursday, but 21 of them were quickly recaptured. Authorities say the inmates escaped through a tunnel they dug to a nearby sewage pipe. Police were searching for the 14 detainees who remained on the loose. All 35 prisoners were facing terrorism charges.

Prisoners often try to escape from Iraqi jails. Last month, a prison break in the central Iraqi city of Hilla triggered fighting that killed one guard and at least two inmates. Violence is down across Iraq from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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