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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — For the third time in seven days, a 2nd Brigade soldier has been killed in Iraq, Pentagon officials confirmed Friday.

Pfc. Joshua K. Titcomb, of the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment, was killed Wednesday in Ramadi when an improvised explosive device was detonated near his military vehicle, a Department of Defense statement read. It was unclear whether the vehicle was a tank, Humvee or other piece of equipment.

In the six weeks since the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division arrived in Iraq, six soldiers have been killed in combat, including Titcomb. A seventh soldier died of noncombat wounds shortly after the units left an interim base in Kuwait after deploying from South Korea, officials have said.

The last three combat deaths have come in a seven-day span beginning last Sunday, bolstering warnings by U.S. military officials that casualties could increase in coming weeks. With the January elections in Iraq approaching, military officials have promised increased offensives in areas such as Ramadi and Fallujah, which are largely controlled by insurgents.

The 2nd Brigade is operating in Al Anbar province, which includes the Ramadi and Fallujah areas.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged the violence in Iraq was “getting worse.”

“We do expect that the incidents of violence in both Afghanistan and Iraq between now and the elections will very likely increase and that these dead-enders will try to see if they can prevent it from happening,” Rumsfeld said, according to a Pentagon transcript of a radio interview in West Virginia.

Attacks on American troops in Iraq have risen to around 80 per day, up from 40 a month ago, Pentagon officials said Thursday in Washington. At least 76 U.S. troops were killed in September, marking the first time U.S. casualties have increased each month for four straight months.

Titcomb, 20, from Somerset, Ky., is the second soldier from 2-72 Armor to be killed since the deployment began. Staff Sgt. Gary Alexander Vaillant, of 2-72’s Company A, was killed Sept. 5 when his Abrams tank ran over an anti-tank mine near Khaldiya, Iraq.

After Vaillant’s death, the Company A commander told Stars and Stripes his troops would try to take something positive from the casualties.

“We are not going to avenge his death,” Capt. Chris Plekenpol said. “We are going to see that his death paves the way for freedom. We can allow the Iraqi people to experience the freedom that most Americans take for granted.”

The 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment is stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea. One company-sized element deployed to Iraq, while the remainder of the regiment is still in Korea.


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