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News Analysis: Growing sectarian tension in Iraq claims thousands of civilian lives

English.news.cn   2013-07-02 20:13:58            

 People check the sence of last night's blast in Kirkuk, Iraq, June 10, 2013.  (Xinhua/Dena Assad)

by Jamal Hashim

BAGHDAD, July 2 (Xinhua) -- The death toll among civilians have been noticeably increasing during the past few months as Iraq grapples with political crisis and anti-government rallies.

The violence ranged from targeting security forces, officials and civilians from the country's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities, mostly in north and west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

A review to the monthly death tolls for the past few months shows that the death toll among civilians had increased sharply starting from March when the Iraqi authorities announced that 229 civilians will killed in violence, about 50 percent of the total death toll of 456 people.

In April, data from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) showed that 434 civilians were killed in the month, while in May the percentage of civilian deaths was about 75 percent, or 782 civilians out of 1045 people killed in various clashes, which was the highest level of deaths in Iraq since 2008.

In June, the civilian death toll was about 73 percent of total deaths, almost the same percentage of April despite that the total death toll was less than that of April, according to a statement by UNAMI which put the toll at 761 killed during the month, including 544 civilians.

Most of the violent incidents have been claimed by al-Qaida front group in Iraq, particularly the deadly suicide bombings, and many other attacks were attributed to reprisal sectarian killings as well as some political motivated crimes.

The spike of the toll in May which exceeded 1,000 people pushed UNAMI to urge the Iraqi political leaders to act immediately to stop the bloodshed and to protect the civilians.

The politicians must "act immediately to engage in dialogue to resolve the political problems and not let the terrorists benefit from the differences," UNAMI said in a statement. Sabah al-Sheikh, an Iraqi expert in politics, told Xinhua that " political division is a major factor for sectarian and ethnic polarization in the Iraqi society, which will naturally turn into a breeding ground for violence in the country."

In a bid to contain the country's slide into an all-out sectarian strife, some top politicians from different Iraqi factions, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, and the Kurdish Maliki's deputy Roj Nuri Shawis, held a meeting on June 1 at the office of the Shiite leader Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), to discuss the means to end political differences.

The meeting was a sign of breakthrough in the country's political deadlock, but it only yielded limited results on the ground, as violence in June was reduced from 1,045 people killed to 761, and people in Baghdad noticed that some militias which appeared by the spike of violence have again kept low profile.

However, sporadic waves of massive attacks and daily killings continued, as gunmen focused this time on targeting coffee shops, restaurants, football pitches, markets, funeral tents and mosques of both Shiite and Sunni communities.

"Attacks on pure civilian targets are easy and effective because the security forces cannot protect all places and people would get mad by such deadly bombings in public places," al-Sheikh said.

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Editor: Bi Mingxin
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