U.S. military deaths in the Iraq campaign passed 1,000 Tuesday, an Associated Press tally showed, as a spike in fighting with both Sunni and Shiite insurgents killed seven Americans in scattered clashes in the Baghdad area. The count includes 998 U.S. troops and three civilian contractors killed while working for the Pentagon. The tally was compiled by the AP based on Pentagon records, AP reporting from Iraq, and reports from soldiers' families. It includes deaths from hostile and non-hostile causes since President Bush launched a campaign in March 2003 to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. A few deaths occurred in neighboring Kuwait. The grim milestone was surpassed after a spike in clashes that has killed 14 American service members in the past two days. Two soldiers died in fighting Tuesday with militiamen loyal to rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Five other Americans died Tuesday in separate attacks, mostly in the Baghdad area. During a news conference at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sought to play down the impact of the milestone, saying the "civilized world" had long passed the 1,000th death at the hands of terrorists, informs ABCNEWS. According to the NEWS,American soldiers fought Shia militiamen of the Mehdi Army in the sprawling slum of Sadr City in east Baghdad yesterday in fierce battles that left 34 people dead, including one US soldier, and 193 wounded, according to US and Iraqi authorities. Shia fighters used hammers to dig up asphalt from the roads, and then planted explosives. Shops shut as roads were blocked with stones and tyres. Militiamen carrying machineguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers moved hurriedly towards the fighting. "Our fighters had no choice but to return fire and to face the US forces and helicopters pounding our houses," said Sheikh Raed al-Khadimi, the spokesman for Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shia cleric. US commanders have said that they want to clear the Mehdi Army from its stronghold in Sadr City. Talks between representatives of Mr Sadr and the interim government of Iyad Allawi, the Prime Minister, broke down when the government rejected the demand that American troops keep out of Sadr City. The Daily Times reports that the Iraqi capital was steeped in blood on Tuesday as a fledgling truce in a Shia rebel bastion was shattered by running battles that officials said left scores dead and wounded. Fierce clashes were raging in Sadr City, a correspondent said, reporting that smoke was rising from some areas of the over-populated Baghdad slum while US fighter jets were flying overhead. The Health Ministry said 40 Iraqis were killed and more than 270 wounded in the overnight fighting between US forces and combatants loyal to radical Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr. Sadr aide Sheikh Naim al-Qaabi said 15 Mehdi Army fighters were killed and 62 wounded. US army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Hutton reported several bomb and small arms attacks on US forces in Sadr City overnight and said one US soldier was killed in an ambush there on Tuesday. In a separate attack, insurgents armed with small arms killed one soldier in the western part of the city, the military said. The US military also reported the deaths of four other troops in separate attacks in the Baghdad area on Monday, bringing the total number of soldiers killed since the March 2003 invasion to 992.
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