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Two U.S. troops die in Iraq; 11 total this month

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military says two American troops have been killed in northern Iraq while conducting operations.

The military said in a statement that the service members were killed Sunday.

No further details were immediately available, and the names of the dead are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The deaths bring to 4,465 the number of American troops who have died in Iraq. That's according to an Associated Press count.

Eleven American troops have died this month in combat related situations. The casualty figure is the highest number of combat related deaths since May 2009 when American forces were still operating freely in Iraqi cities.

Most of the deaths have happened in Baghdad and southern Iraq reflecting the increased threat of Shiite militias to departing U.S. forces.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber in a wheelchair blew himself up at the entrance to a police station north of the capital Baghdad on Sunday, killing three people and wounding 18, officials said.

Two police officers were killed and 10 injured in Tarmiyah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, two police officers and one medical official said.

The head of the Tarmiyah city council, Qassim Khalifa, told The Associated Press that it was not clear whether the bomber was really handicapped or using the wheelchair as a way to deflect attention from security personnel.

The bomber went to the police station claiming to need a letter from the police certifying he'd been maimed in a terror attack, Khalifa said. Iraqis who have been disabled from a bombing or shooting can receive compensation from the government if their injuries are documented.

"Police inspected him but not very carefully as he was handicapped or pretending to be handicapped, so they let him go inside the police reception area where the blast occurred," Khalifa said.

In Baghdad, security authorities were out in force to protect Shiite pilgrims converging from around the country to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a revered Shiite figure. Pilgrims traditionally walk to the twin-domed shrine in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah, where al-Kadhim is buried.

Predominantly Sunni militants often target the pilgrims as they are walking to and from the shrine from cities and towns across Iraq. Sunday morning a sniper shot and wounded two Iraqi soldiers near the village of Wahda, a mixed Shiite-Sunni village 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of the capital, said a police and hospital official. The soldiers were manning one of the checkpoints set up to protect pilgrims as they walk to the shrine.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

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