In a span of a few hours, 2,973 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In a span of 45 months, the number of American troops killed in Iraq exceeded that grim toll as the war continues.

The milestone in Iraq came on Christmas, nearly four years after the war began, according to a count by The Associated Press. In announcing the Monday deaths of three soldiers, the toll from those fighting the war surpassed the toll from those killed by terrorists in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

President Bush has said the Iraq war is part of the United States’ post-Sept. 11 approach to threats abroad. Going on offense against enemies before they could harm Americans meant removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, pursuing members of al-Qaida and seeking regime change in Iraq, Bush has said.

Democratic leaders have said the Bush administration has gotten the U.S. bogged down in Iraq when there was no evidence of links to the Sept. 11 attacks, detracting from efforts against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

The 9/11 death toll includes the 2,749 killed at the World Trade Center, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 passengers aboard United Flight 93.

Those killed in Iraq came from across the United States. More than 50 residents of Alabama have died in the war. More than 30 of the dead lived in Nebraska. More than 40 from Kentucky were killed.

A number of them enlisted in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Jonathan Lootens, from upstate New York, joined the Army. "This is something I have to do," he told family members. The 25-year-old sergeant was killed during his second tour of duty when a roadside bomb went off near his vehicle in the city of Kirkuk.

Marine Lance Cpl. John Edward Hale was only 15 and living in Louisiana when the planes hit the World Trade Center, but he never forgot what happened. He joined the Marines after graduating high school last year, and was only in Iraq for three months when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Michael Glover joined the Marines after his boyhood neighborhood — the Belle Harbor section of Queens — lost several residents in the Sept. 11 attacks.

One of his best friends, an equities trainer at Cantor Fitzgerald LP, was among those killed at the trade center. And Belle Harbor, an enclave of police, firefighters and government workers, lost a large number of residents.

Glover was killed by a sniper while on patrol in Fallujah.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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