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Iraq records highest monthly death toll in years

More than 1,000 people were killed in violence across Iraq last month, according to the United Nations mission there, the highest monthly death toll in years.

Violence has increased sharply in Iraq over the past two months, with bombings in civilian areas growing more frequent as fears grow that widespread sectarian conflict may break out once again. The bloodshed has accelerated since a deadly crackdown on 23 April by security forces on a Sunni protest in the northern town of Hawija.

The UN figures showed that 1,045 civilians and security personnel were killed in May. That surpassed the 712 killed in April, the deadliest month recorded since June 2008.

The UN envoy Martin Kobler called the figures "a sad record".

"Iraqi political leaders must act immediately to stop this intolerable bloodshed," he said in a statement on Saturday.

More than half of those killed were in the greater Baghdad area. Car bombs and other explosives were responsible for the bulk of the casualties across the country.

On Friday authorities imposed a sweeping ban on cars bearing common temporary licence plates across the capital in an apparent effort to thwart car bombings.

Tallies of Iraqi casualties have long been the subject of debate, and the UN total is considerably higher than that reported by news agencies in the country.

The UN says its totals are based on direct investigation and accounts from credible outside sources.

Iraqi authorities believe the local offshoot of al-Qaida and other Sunni-backed militant groups are responsible for much of the violence. But a series of attacks on Sunni mosques that have left more than 100 dead in recent weeks is raising concerns that Shia militants are also behind some of the violence.

[Source: The Guardian, Ap, London, 01Jun13]

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