BAGHDAD Deaths among American forces and Iraqi civilians fell dramatically last month to their lowest levels in more than a year, according to figures compiled by the U.S. military, the Iraqi government and The Associated Press.
The decline signaled a U.S. success in bringing down violence in Baghdad and surrounding regions since Washington completed its infusion of 30,000 more troops on June 15.
A total of 64 American forces died in September the lowest monthly toll since July 2006.
The decline in Iraqi civilian deaths was even more dramatic, falling from 1,975 in August to at least 988 last month, a decline of 50 percent, according to an AP tally. The civilian death toll has not been so low since June 2006, when 847 Iraqis died.
The AP count includes civilians, government officials and police and security forces, and is considered a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported.
In a joint statement, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. Commander Gen. David Petraeus commended Iraqi's security forces and its citizens for the decrease in violence.
"We are confident that you and your fellow citizens will continue to display determination, that Iraqi Security Forces will remain vigilant and that additional Iraqis will join our combined effort," said the statement released Monday.
In violence Monday, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives just outside the gates of Mosul University, killing an agriculture professor, said police spokesman Abdul Karim al-Jbouri said. Less than an hour later, police found a second bomb in an empty car nearby and safely detonated it.
Over the weekend, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed more than 60 insurgent and militia fighters in intense battles, with most of the casualties believed to have been al-Qaida militants, officials said.
U.S. aircraft killed more than 20 al-Qaida in Iraq fighters who opened fire on an American air patrol northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. command said Sunday.
The firefight between U.S. aircraft and the insurgent fighters occurred Saturday after the aircraft observed about 25 people carrying AK-47 assault rifles one brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade into a palm grove, the military said.
"Shortly after spotting the men, the aircraft were fired upon by the insurgent fighters," it said.
The command said more than 20 of the group were killed and four vehicles were destroyed. No Iraqi civilians or U.S. soldiers were hurt.
Iraq's Defense Ministry said in an e-mail Sunday that Iraqi soldiers had killed 44 "terrorists" over the past 24 hours. The operations were centered in Salahuddin and Diyala provinces and around the city of Kirkuk, where the ministry said its soldiers had killed 40 and arrested eight. It said 52 fighters were arrested altogether.
The ministry did not further identify those killed, but use of the word "terrorists" normally indicates al-Qaida.
The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, joined a broad swath of Iraqi politicians both Shiite and Sunni in criticizing a nonbinding U.S. Senate resolution seen here as a recipe for splitting the country along sectarian and ethnic lines.
The Senate resolution, adopted last week, suggests Iraqi government and parliament adhere to their constitution if they can agree. The basic law allows for a loose confederation of regions under a limited central government, leaving the bulk of power with the regions. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., was a prime sponsor.In a highly unusual, unsigned statement, the U.S. Embassy said resolution would seriously hamper Iraq's future stability: "Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself."
AP correspondents Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Katarina Kratovac and Kim Curtis contributed to this report, as did AP News Research Center in New York.