Months of Sectarian Violence Leave Heavy Casualties in Iraq

Despite efforts by the country’s two-month-old unity government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to crack down on sectarian violence and lawlessness, kidnappings, bombings and assassinations run rampant.

In May, 2,669 civilians died in violence. In June, another 3,149 were killed.

“While welcoming recent positive steps by the government to promote national reconciliation, the report raises alarm at the growing number of casualties among the civilian population killed or wounded during indiscriminate or targeted attacks by terrorists or insurgents,” according to a U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq report, reported the Associated Press.

The deaths mark a sharp rise in civilian casualties since January when 710 people died. The report estimates 14,338 people were killed in the increasingly lawless country in the first six months of the year.

Government efforts to quell the violence have proved largely unsuccessful, and much of the violence has affected women and children, the United Nations reported.

“Violence, corruption, inefficiency of state organs to exert control over security, establish the rule of law and protect individual and collective rights all lead to inability of both the state and the family to meet the needs of children,” the report said.

The U.N. report, which combined figures from the Iraq Ministry of Health and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad, issued higher casualty figures than some news organizations, according to the AP.

AP figures from the same six-month period show 4,191 civilian deaths.

Much of the killing has been sectarian in nature, with Sunni and Shiite militias targeting lawmakers and religious and community leaders from opposing Muslim sects.

Sunni Muslims, once dominant under Saddam Hussein and now the minority in Iraq, accuse Shiite militias of running death and kidnap squads targeting Sunnis, Reuters reported.

On Tuesday and Wednesday in two separate attacks, gunmen kidnapped 19 members of a group that oversees Sunni mosques in Iraq.

The abductions followed two days of violence in which at least 120 people died. On Monday, 50 were murdered in a market in Mahmoudiya in one of the worst attacks, the AP reported. On Tuesday, 53 died in a suicide bombing in the city of Kufa, just north of Najaf.

Elsewhere in the country, at least 23 people died in separate attacks, officials reported. An attack on a U.S. checkpoint in the town of Qaim also left several U.S. casualties, according to Reuters reported.

An estimated 2,554 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Reuters reported. The news service estimates between 39,178 and 43,635 Iraqi civilians perished in the same period.

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