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SEOUL — Another 2nd Infantry Division soldier from Camp Howze was killed in Iraq this weekend, bringing the total losses from the unit’s South Korea- based deployment to 26.

Pfc. Stephen C. Benish, 20, of Clark, N.J., died Sunday in Ramadi after being hit by enemy fire while on a foot patrol. Benish was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team within the 2nd ID, the U.S. Department of Defense reported.

The U.S. military says it expects violence to escalate before elections scheduled for Jan. 30, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Benish graduated from Arthur L. Johnson High School in 2002. The school had a moment of silence Tuesday and Robert Taylor, the school’s principal, said students were very upset as news of Benish’s death circulated, The Associated Press reported.

“He was a very well-liked kid, just an outstanding young man,” Taylor told AP.

Flags throughout Clark Township were ordered to half staff on Tuesday, AP reported.

“We on the 11th had a tribute to all our boys who are serving and we mentioned that Steve was the closest to the action,” said Taylor, who coached Benish on the middle school wrestling squad.

Troops have been fighting insurgents in Ramadi in recent days, part of an effort to halt car bombs, attacks on American-backed Iraqi police and other violence near Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah.

As of Wednesday, the Pentagon reported at least 1,254 troops have died since the war began in March 2003.


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