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Iraq civilian deaths rise in January-govt figures

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 1 Feb 2012 17:17 GMT
Author: Reuters
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BAGHDAD, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The number of civilians killed in violence rose slightly in January, according to government figures released on Wednesday, despite a series of lethal attacks that followed Iraq's worst political crisis in a year.

Health Ministry figures showed 99 civilians were killed in January, up from 90 in December. Thirty-one police and 21 soldiers were killed, down from 36 and 29 respectively the previous month, according to the interior and defence ministries.

The government figures differed sharply from a Reuters tally, which shows more than 350 people were killed in January, including nearly 290 civilians.

The ministries said 151 civilians, 86 policemen and 85 soldiers were wounded in violence last month, figures well below a Reuters tally of more than 800 wounded.

Tensions rose after the Dec. 18 withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Shi'ite-led government sought the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he ran death squads and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tried to oust his Sunni deputy.

The Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc launched a boycott of parliament in protest, a move that threatened to unravel the fragile power-sharing government. The boycott ended this week.

Iraq has seen some of its biggest attacks in a year since the crisis erupted, including a string of bombings across Baghdad on Dec. 22 that killed more than 70 people.

On Friday a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-filled taxi near a Shi'ite funeral procession in Baghdad, killing 31 people. More than 450 people have been killed and nearly 1,200 wounded since the political crisis began, according to the Reuters tally.

The Shi'ite-led government often blames Sunni Islamist insurgents for attacks targetting Shi'ites, saying they are trying to stoke the kind of sectarian slaughter which killed tens of thousands of Iraqis at the peak of the war in 2006-2007. (Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy and Kareem Raheem; Editing by Jim Loney)

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