Police officers inspect the site of a bomb attack in the southern Iraqi city… (Alaa Al-Shemaree / EPA )
April was the deadliest month in Iraq in nearly five years, the country's United Nations assistance mission said Thursday, tallying 712 lives lost and 1,633 people wounded in the violence. Most of those killed or injured were civilians, according to the world body.
Iraq has been embroiled in violence as sectarian tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims surge, triggering fears that a new war might erupt in the country. The divided nation suffered its worst violence in 2006 and 2007.
Frustration and anger against the Shiite-led government, which Sunni protesters accuse of sidelining and persecuting them, has boiled over in recent weeks. A raid late last month on a Sunni protest camp set off a week of clashes that left more than 200 people dead. Car bombings in largely Shiite areas of southern and central Iraq rattled the country as the month drew to a close.
Terrorist attacks and other acts of violence killed 595 civilians and 117 members of the Iraqi security forces last month, according to a statement from the U.N. mission. The worst hit area was the district that includes Baghdad, where the bloodshed claimed 211 civilian lives, it said.
The numbers reflect a sharp increase in killings. Though violence has ebbed and flowed since the fall, the average number of civilians killed monthly between November and March was approximately 305 people, according to U.N. figures. The U.N. mission said April was the deadliest month since June 2008.
The U.N. mission cautioned that its figures were estimates, based on testimony from victims, their families and witnesses, as well as evidence provided by health personnel, community elders, government officials and other sources. Difficulties in gathering and confirming such information mean the mission may be underestimating the extent of armed violence and terrorism, it said.
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