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A U.S. soldier from the 2nd Battalion, 17th Artillery Regiment, walks in front of a Bradley vehicle during an operation in eastern Baghdad on Sunday. ((Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press))

The U.S. military in Iraq reached a grim milestone at year's end as the Pentagon announced that at least 3,000 soldiers have died, according to figures collected by news agencies and independent groups monitoring casualties in the war.

The Defence Department announced the previously unreported death Sundayof Specialist Dustin Donica, 22, of Spring, Texas, who was killed Thursday by small arms fire in Baghdad.

According to numbers accumulated by the Associated Press and the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, Donica was the 3,000th soldier to die.

The Associated Press's count is 17 higher than the Defence Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. ET.

Donica was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

His deathwas announcedjust after the hanging of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on Saturday, which sparked U.S. forces in the embattled country to be on high alert forpotentialreprisals by Sunni insurgents.

Donica's death was announced by U.S. military authorities in Washington rather thanBaghdad.

Earlier Sunday, the U.S. military announceda U.S. soldier was killed Saturdayby a roadside bomb in southeastern Baghdad. It is customary that the military announces deaths a day after they occur.

The latest death comes as U.S. President George W. Bush has been forced in recent weeks to re-examine the U.S. strategy in Iraq following escalating sectarian violence in the country —in which bombings, executions and torture have become daily occurrences.

At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December, making it the deadliest month for U.S. forces in more than two years.

At least 820 U.S. military personnel died in Iraq in 2006, according to a count by the Associated Press.

With files from the Associated Press