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IRAQ: Death toll for Iraqis jumps in June

July 1, 2009 | 12:42 pm

Offering a possible harbinger of what is to come now that U.S. troops have withdrawn from Iraq's cities, the Iraqi death toll in June was the highest in 11 months, the Health Ministry reported today.

A total of 438 Iraqis died in June in shootings, bombings and assassinations, 68 of them members of the security forces. That is the highest monthly total since July last year, when 465 Iraqis died violently, and includes the tolls from a string of bombings such as the one near Kirkuk last week that killed more than 70 people. It's almost three times the figure for May, 165, the lowest number of the war.

Iraqis have been celebrating the departure of U.S. troops from their cities this week, but in fact the withdrawal has been taking place for months, and by June most U.S. soldiers had vacated the bases they had been designated to leave. So the jump in the casualty toll could be a reflection of what Iraqis can expect now that U.S. forces are no longer patrolling their cities.

But the violence in Iraq has a curious habit of waxing and waning, and single monthly tolls don't give a good idea of where trends are heading. The U.S. military says insurgents are no longer capable of sustaining prolonged assaults and instead focus on generating bursts of bloodshed. 

A comparison between the half-yearly figures for this year and last year makes it clear that the level of violence is in steep decline. In the first six months of 2008, 4,514 Iraqis died violently; in the first half of this year, the figure fell to 1,657.

But 438 casualties in a single month is still a lot of deaths -- more than 14 a day -- and it is hardly surprising that a lot of Iraqis are looking to the months ahead with a great deal of trepidation.

-- Liz Sly in Baghdad

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