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August death toll in Iraq is the highest in more than a year

Officials express concern that security has deteriorated since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities.

September 02, 2009|Ned Parker and Raheem Salman

BAGHDAD — Insurgent attacks produced the highest monthly death toll among Iraqis in 13 months, according to Iraqi government figures obtained Tuesday by The Times, with August marred by suicide bombings in the north and a high-profile assault on government ministries in Baghdad.

The increase in violence stoked concern that security is deteriorating with the June 30 withdrawal of most U.S. troops from the cities and the approach of national elections in January.

A total of 456 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed in attacks in August, the government figures show. It was the deadliest month since July 2008, when 465 Iraqis died violently, though the tally was far lower than at the height of the civil war in 2006 and 2007 when monthly tolls sometimes soared past 2,000.

The attacks in August, as well as a similar spate of bombings that resulted in 355 Iraqi deaths in April and 438 in June, have fed the sense that security could unravel as political factions contend for power.

After the Aug. 19 suicide truck bombings at the Iraqi foreign and finance ministries, which killed about 90 people, government officials said that the security forces had been infiltrated.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has blamed elements of late dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party for the attacks. The U.S. military has said that the violence has failed to reignite the sectarian war.

The violence also has a political dimension as Maliki's opponents point to the bloodshed as proof that he has failed to maintain security gains after the U.S. pullback from the cities, which was stipulated in a security agreement that the United States and Iraq reached late last year.

Abbas Bayati, a Shiite Muslim lawmaker close to Maliki, defended the government's record and said that the country was not slipping back into chaos.

"These acts are not able to deteriorate our security situation nor to return us back to square one," he said.

"In fact it is the opposite. There is a positive movement by all sides and political blocs to confront this terrorism."

Maliki's political opponents disagreed.

"We are saying, who guarantees that the upcoming stage will not witness worse than what has [just] happened," said Sunni Muslim lawmaker Salim Abdullah Jabouri.

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ned.parker@latimes.com

Salman is a Times staff writer.

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