World Bulletin / News Desk
More than 1,000 people were killed in violence in Iraq in May, making it the deadliest month since the sectarian slaughter of 2006-07, the United Nations said on Saturday, as fears mounted of a return to civil war.
Nearly 2,000 people have been killed in the last two months.
"That is a sad record," Martin Kobler, the U.N. envoy in Baghdad, said in a statement. "Iraqi political leaders must act immediately to stop this intolerable bloodshed."
The renewed bloodletting reflects worsening tensions between Iraq's government and minority, seething with resentment at their treatment since Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 and later hanged.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday met leaders from across Iraq's sectarian divide to try to resolve the crisis. Leaders emerged smiling, but there were only initial talks that did not address fundamental Sunni discontent.
This week multiple bombings battered Shi'ite and Sunni areas of the capital Baghdad, killing nearly 100 people. Most of the 1,045 people killed in May were civilians, U.N. figures showed.
The U.N. toll is higher than a Reuters estimate of 600 deaths based on police and hospital officials. Such counts can vary depending on sourcing, while numbers often increase beyond initial estimates as wounded people die.
Al Qaeda's local wing and other Sunni armed groups are now regaining ground lost during their battle with U.S. troops who pulled out in December 2011.
At the height of Iraq's sectarian violence, when Baghdad was carved up between Sunni and Shi'ite gunmen who preyed on rival communities, the monthly death count sometimes topped 3,000.
Government officials say Islamic State of Iraq, and Naqshbandi rebels linked to ex-officers in Saddam's army, are now trying to provoke a Shi'ite reaction.
Security officials believe Shi'ite militias such as the Mehdi Army, Asaib al-Haq and Kataeb Hizballah have mostly kept out of the fray. But militia commanders say they are prepared to act.
Iraq's defence ministry on Saturday said it had captured an al Qaeda cell that was preparing to manufacture poison gases to attack Iraqi security forces but also to ship overseas for assaults in Europe and the United States.
SLIDE INTO CONFLICT
Since April, bombings and attacks have targeted Shi'ite and Sunni mosques and neighbourhoods in Baghdad and other cities, as well as security forces and even moderate Sunni leaders.
Many Iraqis, especially in Baghdad, fear a return of death squads and revenge killings, with shops closing early and extra security measures in place.
An Iraqi army raid on a Sunni protest camp in the town of Hawija in April reignited violence that killed more than 700 people in that month, by a U.N. count. That had been the highest monthly toll in almost five years until it was exceeded in May.Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Haziran 2013, 16:19