The US military in Iraq announced the combat death of a soldier in Babil province and two more in a roadside bomb attack in central Baghdad, bringing to at least 1502 the number of deaths of American troops and Defence Department civilians announced by the Pentagon.

   

The official Pentagon toll for the war announced on Thursday was 1494, but that number sometimes lags slightly behind the actual total.

 

According to icasualties.org, which also keeps a close watch, 1502 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq. As for others in the US-led forces, 86 soldiers of the United Kingdom have been killed and 87 of other nationalities, reported the website, dedicated to keeping track of the toll.

 

Declining monthly toll 

   

US military deaths have declined since the 30 January Iraqi parliamentary elections. American commanders have said they believe the number of fighters waging a campaign against US-led and Iraqi government forces is shrinking.

 

US casualties hit 137 in November
but dropped to 58 in February

In fact, the February US military toll of 58 was the lowest monthly tally since July 2004, and followed a particularly bloody three-month period leading up to the elections.

 

In November, the month that included the Falluja offensive, 137 Americans were killed. Another 72 died in December, and January's toll reached 107.

   

The war began in March 2003 with a US-led invasion to topple then president Saddam Hussein, with US President George Bush citing Iraq's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction as a primary justification.

 

No such stockpiles have been found, and the US called off the search for them in December.

   

The United States has about 150,000 troops in Iraq. The count of more than 1500 deaths includes Americans killed in combat and in non-combat circumstances such as vehicle and aircraft accidents.