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After falling to its lowest point of the war one month ago, the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq climbed in August — but stayed well below the high mark seen a year ago.

According to the Pentagon and, which tracks coalition deaths in Iraq, at least 23 Americans died in Iraq during the month of August.

Of those 23 deaths, the Pentagon listed 12 as the result of hostile fire.

In July, 11 deaths were reported, five of them the result of hostile fire.

U.S. officials have attributed the decline in combat deaths to the marked security improvements in many area and the Iraqi troops taking the lead in some offensive operations.

Insurgent attacks have also shifted to "soft" targets, including Iraqi government agencies and lesser-equipped Iraqi police and soldiers.

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