UN casuality count highlights concern over Iraqi violence

AFP, BAGHDAD

Wed, Jul 03, 2013 - Page 7

Attacks north of Baghdad left 41 dead on Monday as the UN said more than 2,500 people were killed in the past three months, highlighting concerns that Iraq is slipping back into all-out war.

The latest violence comes as the country grapples with months of protests among the Sunni Arab minority, tensions along a swathe of territory in northern Iraq, and a protracted political deadlock that has blocked key legislation.

Analysts have warned that the stalemate and tensions could continue until a general election due next year.

On Monday, a series of attacks in restive areas north of Baghdad left 41 people dead as new figures released by the UN mission in Iraq showed a dramatic surge in violence in recent months.

Most of the victims died when a suicide bomber set off an explosives-rigged vest in the middle of a packed funeral for an Iraqi soldier being held in a husseiniyah, or Shiite religious hall.

The 10pm blast in the town of Muqdadiyah killed 23 people and wounded 27, a police colonel and a medic said.

In nearby Baqubah, capital of Diyala Province, another bombing at a cafe in a Shiite neighborhood killed 10 people and wounded 22.

Earlier in the day, eight former Sunni militiamen were kidnapped from their homes north of Baghdad in pre-dawn raids by gunmen wearing military uniforms before being shot dead, assassination-style.

The men were all former fighters in the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against al-Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006 onwards, helping turn the tide of Iraq’s insurgency.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the violence.

The UN released new figures on Monday that showed that 761 people were killed — most of them civilians — across the country last month, bringing the overall death toll for the past three months to 2,518.

Meanwhile, figures compiled by Agence France-Presse showed the death toll from April through last month was more than twice that of the first three months of the year.

The UN and AFP figures were markedly higher than those compiled by government ministries, which pegged last month’s toll at 240 dead and 379 wounded.