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Thursday, May 29, 2008

More of what "W" has wrought

Army suicides reported up again — at 108

By Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press Writer 16 minutes ago

The number of Army suicides increased again last year, amid the most violent year yet in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Two defense officials said Thursday that 108 troops committed suicide in 2007, six more than the previous year. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the full report on the deaths wasn't being released until later Thursday.

About a quarter of the deaths occurred in Iraq.

The overall toll was the highest in many years, and it was unclear when, if ever, it was previously that high. Immediately available Army records go back only to 1990 and the figure then was lower — at 102 — for that year as well as 1991.

The 108 confirmed deaths in 2007 among active duty soldier and National Guard and Reserve troops that had been activated was lower than previously feared. Preliminary figures released in January showed as many as 121 troops may have killed themselves, but a number of the deaths were still being investigated then and have since been determined to have resulted from other causes, the officials said.

Suicides have been rising almost steadily during the five-year-old war in Iraq and nearly seven-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The 108 deaths last year followed 102 in 2006, 85 in 2005 and 67 in 2004.

The increases come despite a host of efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by long and repeated tours of duty. Increasing the strain on the force last year was the extension of deployments to 15 months from 12 months, a practice that is being terminated this year.

More U.S. troops died in hostilities in 2007 than in any of the previous years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Overall violence increased in Afghanistan with a Taliban resurgence and overall deaths increased in Iraq, even as violence there declined in the second half of the year.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

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