Death toll spikes for Iraqis and U.S. troops
BAGHDAD — Violence killed more Iraqis last month than at any time since September, figures showed Friday after the US reported deaths that also made June the deadliest month for its troops in Iraq for three years.
The Baghdad government blames Al-Qaeda for most of the 271 deaths of its citizens last month, while the US military accuses Iranian-backed Shiite insurgent groups for the attacks that killed 14 Americans.
Data compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries showed that 155 civilians, 77 policemen and 39 soldiers died in attacks last month, 34 percent more than the 177 killed in May.
Last month’s toll was the highest monthly figure for the number of Iraqis killed since September 2010, when 273 died. The previous high for this year was January, when 259 were killed.
A further 454 people were wounded in June, including 192 civilians, 77 policemen and 39 soldiers.
The majority were killed or wounded by car bombs, improvised explosives or shootings, with a large number of senior officials also assassinated with silencer guns.
The worst attack was a June 21 double car-bombing outside the governor’s home in the central city of Diwaniyah which killed 26 people, most of them policemen guarding the official, who escaped unharmed.
Two days later, three bombs packed in shopping carts killed 21 people and wounded 86 others at a market in southern Baghdad crowded with weekend shoppers.
The same day, an American contractor with USAID was killed and another wounded by an improvised bomb next to their armoured vehicle in the capital.
After the Diwaniyah attack, Governor Salam Hussein Alwan, a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance, blamed Al-Qaeda.
“We have arrested a number of people who were behind this attack. This was an attack by Al-Qaeda,” he told a news conference, without elaborating.
The majority of American troops were killed in rocket attacks against military bases, or by roadside bombs that targeted their convoys.
Last month’s toll was the highest since June 2008, when 23 American soldiers were killed, at a time when US forces were directly involved in fighting insurgents.
American soldiers formally ended combat operations last September and largely withdrew to their bases.
The spike in violence against American forces comes as US officials have repeatedly asked Baghdad if it wants some troops to stay beyond a scheduled pullout at the end of this year.
“We have seen an increase in attacks throughout the country, but dominantly in Baghdad and through the south by the three major militia groups,” the spokesman for US forces in Iraq said.
Major General Jeffrey Buchanan identified these groups as Ketaeb Hezbollah, Asaib Ahel al-Haq and the Promised Day Brigade, adding they were backed by neighbouring Iran.
Ketaeb Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a June 6 rocket attack on a military base in Baghdad which killed six American soldiers, the month’s deadliest day for US forces.
The overall number of US soldiers killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion is 4,469, according to an AFP count based on the independent website, www.icasualties.org.
Nearly 50,000 American troops are still in Iraq, down from a peak of more than 170,000 after the invasion.
June’s figures also showed 25 insurgents were killed and 102 arrested.