WASHINGTON — Army safety experts have been dispatched to Iraq to look into the increase in nonhostile deaths, Army officials said.

Nonhostile deaths are fatalities not directly linked to hostile action or terrorist activity, such as deaths from accidents and illness, said Army spokesman Paul Boyce.

From July to August, the number of soldiers whose deaths are classified as accidental or “other deaths” jumped from eight to 27, Defense Department statistics show.

In September, 21 soldiers died under such circumstances, and one such death has been reported for this month as of Oct. 6, the statistics show.

The commanding general of Multi-National Corps–Iraq has requested that a team of experts from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center look into the increase, said safety center spokeswoman Kelly Widener.

The team will conduct a “detailed analysis of the force’s accident loss, trends and practices in order to develop a way ahead and provide recommendations to proactively and aggressively address accidental loss,” Widener said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The safety center only looks at accidental deaths, not suicides or deaths stemming from criminal or medical activity, Widener said.

Boyce had no information on how many of the recent deaths are suicides because the circumstances of those deaths are likely still being investigated.

“A determination of suicide is made only at the conclusion of thorough death investigation,” Boyce said. “We do not prejudge the circumstances of death while an investigation is ongoing.”

The team is already on the ground advising commanders on the issue, said Lt. Gen. Carter Ham of the Joint Staff, which supports the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The spike in nonhostile deaths is of concern to the top U.S. commanders in Iraq, who are “very, very focused,” Ham told reporters on Tuesday.

Asked if the increase in nonhostile deaths could be related to the longer 15-month deployments soldiers endure, Ham did not answer directly but ventured that one reason for the increase might be the increased number of troops in Iraq.

“While even one non-battle casualty is one too many, there is a reason to believe that if you have a greater population, you are going to experience an increase in nonbattle casualties,” he said.

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