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IRAQ: Monthly death toll highest in over a year

September 1, 2009 |  9:01 am

Iraq-baqouba Violence in Iraq produced the highest death toll in 13 months as August was marred by a series of suicide bombings in northern Iraq and a high-profile attack on two government ministries in Baghdad that stoked concerns that security was deteriorating with the removal of most U.S. forces from Iraqi cities and the approach of national elections in January.

A total of 456 people were killed in attacks in August, including 393 civilians, a number far lower than the figures at the height of Iraq’s civil war in 2006 and 2007 when Iraq’s monthly death toll sometimes soared past 2,000. 

But the attacks in August, as well as a similar spate of bombings that resulted in 290 civilians killed in April and 373 killed in June, have fed impressions in Iraq that security could unravel as the country’s political factions contend for power. It was the deadliest month since July 2008, when 465 Iraqis died violently.

 After the Aug. 19th suicide truck bombings on the Iraqi foreign and finance ministries, which left around 100 dead, government officials said Iraq’s security forces had been infiltrated. 

Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has blamed the attacks on elements of late dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, who want to overthrow the current political order. The U.S. military has insisted that the attacks have failed to bring about a return to the days of the country’s sectarian war.

The violence also has a political dimension, as different sides seek to point to the bloodshed as proof that Maliki has failed to maintain security gains after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from cities on June 30, according to the security agreement signed by the United States and Iraq late last year. 

Reacting to news of this month’s death toll, loyalists to Maliki insisted security was not deteriorating, but his political opponents criticized the security situation.

“We are saying, who guarantees that the upcoming stage will not witness worse than what has [just] happened?” said Sunni lawmaker Selim Jabouri.

-- Ned Parker in Baghdad

Photo: An Iraqi woman weeps over the body of her sister who was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Baqouba city, northeast of Baghdad on Aug. 31. Credit: Ali Mohammed / EPA