(CNSNews.com) - U.S. combat casualties in Iraq fell to their lowest level last month, with most of the fatalities concentrated outside of Baghdad in the Ninawa Province along the Syrian border, according to a CNSNews.com analysis of U.S. Defense Department data. (One non-combat casualty was still under investigation as this story went to press.)
Five combat deaths have been reported for November so far, the lowest total of any month going back to beginning of the war in March 2003. That total compares with 29 combat deaths in November 2007, a drop of about 83 percent.
U.S. soldiers were more likely to die in non-combat incidents such as vehicular accidents and helicopter crashes in November 2008 than they were in combat situations. All told, there were 11 non-combat casualties.
However, the status of one non-combat casualty is still considered “pending” and is under investigation, Lt. Col. Les Melynk, a Defense Department spokesman told CNSNews.com.
Army Master Sgt. Anthony Davis, 43, of Deerfield, Fla., was killed on Nov. 24 in Baaj, Iraq, located in the Ninawa Province, when he was shot by someone who appeared to be an Iraqi Security Force soldier, a Pentagon press release stated. The shooting took place while Davis was assisting a humanitarian food drop, Melynk explained.
“He was shot but I don’t know the circumstances -- it’s under investigation,” he said. “That may be the one place where we have a discrepancy because he’s pending.”
If the casualty reports for November remain unchanged, they will match the historic low for U.S. combat deaths in Iraq set in July 2008, according to a CNSNews.com database on the war.
Terrorists and insurgents operating in Iraq continue to favor the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as way to induce casualties against better armed coalition forces, national security experts have said in U.S. congressional testimony.
But most U.S. combat casualties reported in November occurred when assailants, dressed as Iraqi army soldiers, opened fire.
On Nov. 12, for instance, Army Sgt. Jose Regalado, 23, of Los Angeles, Calif., and Army Spc. Corey Shea, 21, of Mansfield, Mass., both died in Mosul, the capital city of Ninawa Province, after an individual wearing the uniform of an Iraqi soldier approached them and opened fire.
The Army’s Anthony Davis, a native of Baltimore, appears to have died in a similar manner during a humanitarian mission in Ninawa.
“The attack appears to have been unprovoked,” Col. Bill Buckner, spokesman for the Multi-National Corps in Iraq, was quoted as saying in reference to the shooting of Sgt. Davis. “It is unknown if the attacker was an Iraqi soldier or an insurgent in disguise.”
There was one combat casualty reported in Baghdad and one reported in the Anbar Province, both the result of IED explosions.
November 2008 Non-Combat and Combat Casualties
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Army Spc. Adam Wenger, 27, of Waterford, Mich., died on Nov. 5 in Tunnis, Iraq, in a non-combat incident that remains under investigation. Some un-confirmed reports indicate Wenger died from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident but the Pentagon has not released any new information.
Army Pfc. Theron Hobbs, 22, of Albany, Ga., died Nov. 6 in a motor vehicle accident in Kirkuk, Iraq. A vehicle Hobbs was repairing was struck and rolled over, according to other press reports.
Army Spc. Armando De La Paz, 21, of Riverside Calif., died Nov. 13 in Baghdad from a vehicle “roll-over.” The incident remains under investigation.
Army Sgt. James Clay, 25, of Mountain Home, Ark., died Nov. 13 in Anbar Province from a motor vehicle accident. The incident remains under investigation.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Donald Clark, 37, of Memphis, Tenn., died Nov. 15 in Mosul when the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter he was riding in crashed during a mission.
Army Chief Warrant Officer Christian Humphreys, 28, of Fallon, Nev., died Nov. 15 in Mosul when the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter he was riding in crashed during a mission.
Marine Gunnery Sgt., Marcelo Velasco, 40, of Miami, Fla., died Nov. 19, in non-hostile activity in Anbar. The incident remains under investigation.
Army Pvt. Charles Yi Barnett, 19, of Bel Air, Md., died Nov. 20 from a non-combat incident in Tallil that remains under investigation.
Army Sgt. First Class Miguel Wilson, 36, of Bonham, Texas, died Nov. 21 in Abu Sayf in Mosul during the rescue attempt of another soldier who fell into a river. Wilson was lost in the river during the attempt.
Army Master Sgt. Davis, 43, of Deerfield, Fla., died Nov. 24 in Baaj after being shot by an Iraqi Security Force soldier. The incident is under investigation and is still considered non-combat by the Pentagon as of Dec. 1.
Army 1st Lt. William Jernigan, 35, of Doraville, Ga., died Nov. 24 in Baqubah from a non-combat incident that is under investigation.
Army Staff Sgt. Timothy Walker, 38, of Franklin, Tenn., died Nov. 8 in Baghdad when an IED exploded near his vehicle.
Army Sgt. Jose Regalado, 23, of Los Angeles, Calif., died Nov. 12 in Mosul when an Iraqi army soldier approached him and opened fire.
Army Spc. Corey Shea, 21, of Mansfield, Mass., died Nov. 12 in Mosul when an Iraqi army soldier approached him and opened fire.
Marine Cpl. Sgt. James Clay, 24, of Buellton, Calif., died Nov. 14 from an IED explosion in Anbar about 10 miles south of Fallujah.
Marine Capt. Warren Frank, 26, of Cincinnati, Ohio, died Nov. 25 during combat operations in Ninawa. Frank was shot by an assailant wearing the uniform of an Iraqi soldier, according to other press reports.