Fierce fighting in Baghdad?? Sadr City fueled the bloodshed last month, with at least 1,073 people killed across Iraq and the US military?? toll hitting a seven-month high.
Overnight clashes in Sadr City between US forces and Shiite militiamen left another eight people killed, including two children, officials said. The military said it killed eight militants.
Data collected by the interior, health and defense ministries and made available to the media show 966 civilians were killed last month, as were 69 police officers and 38 soldiers.
Most of the fatalities were in clashes between troops and Shiite militiamen loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad district of some 2 million people, a security official said.
Last month?? toll was marginally lower than in March, which saw 1,082 Iraqis killed.
Combined figures obtained by AFP from the three ministries showed that 1,745 civilians, 159 policemen and 104 soldiers were wounded during the month.
The toll for last month maintains the trend of rising violence that in March reversed a gradually declining trend seen from June last year. It follows 721 killed in February, 541 in January, 568 in December, 606 in November, 887 in October, 917 in September and 1,856 in August.
April was also the deadliest month for the US military since last September. It lost 50 soldiers during the month, according to independent Web site icasualties.org based on the deaths announced by the military so far for last month.
These deaths brought the number of US troops killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 4,062.
Twenty-three of the 50 US soldiers killed last month died in Baghdad, where the military is engaged in fierce street battles with Shiite militiamen.
The fighting between security forces and Shiite militiamen erupted in the southern city of Basra on March 25, and spread quickly to other Shiite areas of Iraq, particularly Sadr City.
Iraqi security and medical officials said at least eight people were killed in overnight violence in Sadr City?? Hay Tareq and Obeidi neighborhoods. They included two women and two children, they said.
US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Stover said troops ??ositively identified??militiamen and killed eight in separate incidents between Wednesday evening and yesterday morning.
He said the militants are ??nowingly placing innocent Iraqis in harm?? way. He does this purposely, not because he cares, but because he doesn?? care.??br />
On Wednesday Tehseen Sheikhly, a spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, said that at least 925 people had been killed in Sadr City firefights since late March.
He did not offer a breakdown of separate figures for March and last month. He also did not clarify how many civilians and militants died.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused the militiamen of using civilians as ??uman shields??while battling security forces.
??riminals and lawless gangs are using human shields in Sadr City ... They are following the steps of the Baathist regime,??he told a news conference.
??hey are trying to gain sympathy but they are using the lies and the values of the former regime??of executed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
The US military says that gunmen have been shooting at troops from rooftops, alleyways and houses, resulting in firefights in which civilians are often killed.