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Female troop deaths in Iraq on pace to top record

  • Story Highlights
  • Eighty-two female U.S. service members have died since 2003 invasion of Iraq
  • Jordan will allow about 50,000 Iraqi refugees to attend public school, U.N. says
  • Iraq's prime minister discusses strengthening ties with Syrian president
  • Iraqi deputy minister abducted by men in military uniforms, Interior Ministry says
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(CNN) -- A U.S. soldier killed in Baghdad last week marked the fourth death of an American female service member this month, a toll that hasn't been topped since June 2005.


Spc. Kamisha J. Block of Vidor, Texas, died from a "nonbattle-related cause" last week, the military says.

Eighty-two service women have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to the Pentagon.

In 1994 the U.S. military began allowing women to serve in posts other than front-line infantry, special operations and artillery units.

The highest monthly death toll -- four troops and a Defense Department civilian -- came in June 2005.

The Thursday death of Spc. Kamisha J. Block, 20, of Vidor, Texas, from a "nonbattle-related cause" was the fifth time that four female service members have been killed in a month, the Pentagon reported. It also happened in October 2003, November 2003, September 2006 and January 2007.

Block's death came the day after two female soldiers with Multi-National Division-Baghdad -- Sgt. Princess C. Samuels, 22, of Mitchellville, Maryland, and Spc. Zandra T. Walker, 28, of Greenville, South Carolina -- were killed by indirect gunfire during combat operations in Taji.

The first death of a female soldier this month came August 9. Sgt. Alicia A. Birchett, 29, a Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldier from Mashpee, Massachusetts, died in "noncombat-related circumstances," according to the U.S. military.

Sixteen female service members have died in Iraq this year, which puts 2007 on track to top the previous record of 20, set in 2005. Death tolls in other years are 12 in 2003, 19 in 2004 and 15 in 2006.

Sixty-eight of those were from the Army. Six were Marines, five were from the Navy and three were from the Air Force.

The number of U.S. military deaths in the war stands at 3,700. Seven civilian Defense Department employees also have been killed.

Jordan to let refugees go to school

Jordan, which plays host to an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees and which is one of six countries bordering the war-ravaged nation, is letting refugee children attend public school, the United Nations said Tuesday.

More than 30 schools in Amman, the capital, have been picked for double shifts, and there will be more selected in Zarqa and Irbid.

Around 2,500 teachers will be hired, some of whom will need training to meet "the special needs of Iraqi children, many who have been witness to extreme violence," the United Nations said.

The children will be allowed in schools "regardless of whether their parents have residency permits or not," the world body said in a statement. Previously, children whose parents didn't have residency were barred from attending school.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has been trying to garner support for a $129 million appeal "aimed at getting an additional 155,000 uprooted Iraqi children in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon back to school."

At least 50,000 Iraqi students are expected to enroll in Jordanian schools by mid-September, according to Jordan's Education Ministry. The children will follow the same curricula as Jordanian students.

Other developments

• Tikrit's police chief was shot to death Tuesday night by gunmen who broke into his house north of Tikrit, police in the Iraqi town told CNN. Col. Othman Chachan al-Ba'ajeeli's family was in the house but they were not injured.

• Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sat down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday to explore ways to deepen their relationship. The Iraqi government is intent on fostering close ties with its neighbors, including Syria and Iran -- both regularly accused by the United States of being negative influences in Iraq. Video Watch what al-Maliki hopes to achieve »

• An Iraqi government official was kidnapped in Baghdad while heading to his residence, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Tuesday. Samir Salim al-Atar, deputy minister of science and technology, was abducted Monday by men dressed in military uniforms and driving what appeared to be a government convoy.


• Fifteen former Iraqi officials from Saddam Hussein's regime went on trial Tuesday for their alleged roles in the slaughter of thousands of Shiite Muslims during a 1991 uprising, court officials said. They are charged with crimes against humanity in the case being heard by the Iraqi High Tribunal. Estimates of the Shiite death toll range from 20,000 to 100,000.

• The U.S. intelligence community sent an updated classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to Capitol Hill on Monday in advance of an upcoming report from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, on their views about military and political progress in Iraq. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jennifer Turner, Suzanne Malveaux and Raja Razek contributed to this report.

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