US troops suffered their worst one-month losses in Iraq last month since the US-led invasion in March last year, according to statistics released by the US military yesterday.
The number of US killed in one month rose above 100 for the second time since April of this year, with 136 personnel dead as of yesterday morning.
Until then April had been the worst month, when 135 died as the insurgence flared in Fallujah and elsewhere in the so-called Sunni Triangle where US forces and their Iraqi allies lost a large measure of control.
On Nov. 8, US forces launched an offensive to retake Fallujah and more than 50 US troops have been killed in Fallujah since then. The Pentagon has not provided a casualty count for Fallujah for more than a week.
Each month's death toll since the interim Iraqi government was put in power June 28 has been higher than the last, with the single exception of October, when it was 63.
The monthly totals grew from 42 in June to 54 in July to 65 in August and to 80 in September.
The Pentagon's official death toll for Iraq, dating to the start of the war, stood at 1,251 on Monday.
Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded in a crowded market in a town north of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least seven people and wounding 20. The bomb went off in a busy staging area in the oil-refining town of Baiji, 180km north of Baghdad, as a US military patrol was passing.
A US military spokesman said two soldiers were wounded in the blast, which destroyed market stalls and caused panic among the throng of shoppers, witnesses said.
In London, the British-based charity Medact released a report yesterday that said the war in Iraq has caused a public health disaster that has left the country's medical system in tatters and increased the risk of disease and death.
"The health of the Iraqi people has deteriorated since the 2003 invasion," Gill Reeve, the deputy director of Medact, told a news conference to launch the report.
"Immediate action is needed to halt this health disaster," Reeve said.
The report, which is based on interviews in Jordan with Iraqi civilians, relief organizations and health professionals who worked in Iraq, called for Britain to set up an independent commission to investigate civilian casualties and to provide emergency relief and a better health system.
The report details a recurrence of previously well-controlled illnesses like diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and typhoid.
The report urges coalition forces to monitor casualties and re-evaluate the impact of weapons used in populated areas.
"We hope that by highlighting health we can make sure that all sides in the conflict know the price the civilian population is paying for the ongoing violence," Rowson said.
In other news, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was scheduled to travel to Jordan yesterday to meet with Iraqis outside the country as part of attempts to get as many Iraqis as possible to participate in upcoming elections, diplomats and Iraqi officials said.
But Allawi himself played down expectations that the meetings would be a major overture to oppositionists.