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Reuters | October 30 2006

U.S. military deaths in Iraq in October reached 100 Monday, making this the deadliest month for American troops in a year.

The death toll mounted as militias and al Qaeda staged fierce battles in Baghdad and other parts of the country, despite a four-month security crackdown in the capital and additional U.S. troops on the ground.

The spike in the unrelenting violence has been blamed on the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when attacks generally rise, and on increased patrols in tense areas.

The Pentagon also said that insurgents fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces were motivated by the November 7 congressional elections in the United States.

"The level of attacks has gone up, true," said Pentagon press secretary Eric Ruff. "What is the reason for that? Ramadan is one and because of our elections."

"It would seem that if they can increase the violence, they can increase opposition to the war and have an influence against the president," Ruff told reporters Friday, discussing the month's rising death toll.

Defense officials did not say what information had led them to that conclusion. Ruff said he had not seen intelligence to back it up.

He and others have also declined to say whether the Pentagon expects attacks to decline after the elections, in which polls show Bush's Republican party may lose control of Congress due in large part to anger over Iraq.

Ruff stopped short of saying insurgents in Iraq or Al Qaeda want Democrats to take control of Congress.

The death of a Marine in western Anbar province Sunday, announced by the U.S. military Monday, brought U.S. military deaths in Iraq to 100 for October.

November 2004 was the deadliest of 42 months of war for Americans, when 137 died. In April 2004, 135 died. Defense officials attributed those tolls to offensives in Falluja.

In all, more than 2,800 have died in Iraq, the military says. There are about 147,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

The United Nations estimates more than 100 civilians die every week in Iraq. More than 300 Iraqi police and troops died during Ramadan, according to U.S. Gen. George Casey.

U.S. and Iraqi forces are engaged in intense, regular battles in Baghdad and Anbar. The violence swept away any hope in the Pentagon of reducing U.S. troop levels soon and has led the Bush administration to press Iraq's government to take on more responsibility for security.

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