Baghdad (AFP) – Violence in Iraq is at its worst level since 2008, figures showed Friday, as premier Nuri al-Maliki was to appeal for Barack Obama’s help to combat a spike in militancy.
The new figures capture a months-long surge in unrest despite wide-ranging operations targeting insurgents and a major tightening of security in Baghdad and elsewhere, with no sign of respite ahead of elections due within months.
Two years after U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq, Maliki is to call for more military equipment and greater security cooperation in talks with the American president later on Friday in Washington, after likening the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked militants to a third world war.
Figures released by the ministries of health, interior and defence showed violence last month killed 964 people — 855 civilians, 65 policemen and 44 soldiers — and another 1,600 wounded.
The United Nations put the figure even higher, with 979 people killed and 1,902 wounded.
“Indiscriminate violence is constant,” said U.N. special envoy Nickolay Mladenov.
“It is urgent that the Iraqi leaders take together the necessary bold steps to bring an end to the current mayhem, and to foil attempts by terrorists to destroy the social fabric of the Iraqi society.”
The overall government death toll is the highest such figure since April 2008, when 1,073 people were killed.
At that time, Iraq was slowly emerging from a brutal sectarian war that claimed tens of thousands of lives and only slowed when the United States sent in a surge of troops and partnered with former Sunni insurgents against Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate.
But nearly two years after the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq and a civil war erupted in neighboring Syria, Iraq once again appears on the verge of another round of sectarian bloodletting.
Violence continued to roil Iraq on Friday, with four people killed in the north of the country.
Figures compiled by AFP based on reports from security and medical officials showed a decline in violence last month, but still put the death toll at one of the highest levels of the year.
Overall, at least 743 people were killed in attacks in October, according to the AFP tally, more than in January, February and March combined.
‘Anyone can be killed at any time’
“You, me, and anyone who walks in the streets, at any minute, we could face a car bomb, a motorcycle bomb, or a suicide bomber using an explosives belt,” said Kadhim Abdulridha, an unemployed man in Baghdad who blamed security forces for not bringing the unrest under control.