updated 5/1/2009 3:32:41 AM ET 2009-05-01T07:32:41

Three U.S. troops have been killed in fighting west of Baghdad, the military said Friday, making April the deadliest month this year for American forces in Iraq.

The two U.S. Marines and one sailor were killed Thursday while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, according to a statement.

The deaths pushed the U.S. toll for April to 18, doubling the number who died the previous month. The U.S. military reported 17 Americans killed in February and 16 in January.

In all, at least 4,281 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The military statement did not provide further details about the nature of the fighting in Anbar. It also did not identify the troops, pending notification of relatives.

Civilian deaths in Iraq in April were also higher than previous months following a series of bombings that killed more than 200 people.

At least 355 Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces were killed in violence in April, according to a monthly death toll issued by various Iraqi government ministries.

That compares with an Associated Press tally of at least 365 Iraqis killed — in addition to 80 Iranian pilgrims — in violence in April. In March, 335 people were killed in violence in Iraq; 283 in February and 242 in January, according to the AP figures.

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