Last month saw deadly violence in Iraq drop near its lowest levels for the year, figures compiled by Agence France-Presse showed yesterday, despite a wave of attacks a day earlier which killed 23 people.
Overall, 139 people were killed across the country last month, including 40 policemen and 15 soldiers, and 347 were wounded, according to the data based on reports from security and medical officials.
The monthly death toll was near last year’s low of 136 set in October.
However, in a sign insurgents were still capable of carrying out deadly nationwide attacks, a series of shootings and bombings in the north, center and south of the country killed 23 people and wounded 83 on Monday.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Sunni militants such as al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq regularly target officials and security forces in a bid to destabilize the government and also often attack Shiite pilgrims.
The violence comes after anti-government protesters blocked a key highway to Syria and Jordan amid political tensions between Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and a secular Sunni-backed party in his fragile national unity government.
Much of Monday’s violence targeted Shiite pilgrims, ahead of Arbaeen commemoration ceremonies due this week.
In the deadliest attack, seven people — three women, two children and two men — were killed when three houses were blown up in the town of Mussayib, south of Baghdad, police and a medic said. Four people were wounded.
The victims were apparently targeted because they were Shiites, the officials said.
Attacks on Shiite pilgrims embarking on the traditional walk to the holy shrine city of Karbala for Arbaeen commemorations also killed one person and wounded 19.
Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam’s most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680.
Sunni militants often use the rituals as an opportunity to increase attacks against Shiites.
Attacks in Baghdad and north of the city killed 13 people.