BAGHDAD, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- A total of 759 Iraqis were killed in violent attacks in Iraq in December, according to a statement released by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on Wednesday.
The statement said that 661 civilians, including civilian police personnel, and 98 members of the Iraqi security forces, were killed in terrorist and violent acts in December.
It also said that a total of 8,868 Iraqis were killed in 2013, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, marking the highest annual death toll in years.
"This is a sad and terrible record which confirms once again the urgent need for the Iraqi authorities to address the roots of violence to curb this infernal circle," UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in the statement.
Tensions and violence have been escalating between the Sunni and Shiite communities since late 2012, when the Sunni Muslims started protests against the Shiite-led government in six of Iraq' s predominantly Sunni provinces and the Sunni districts in Baghdad.
The Sunnis accuse the government of marginalizing them, and claim that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces indiscriminately arrest and torture their sons.
The security situation in Iraq began to deteriorate on April 23 after the security forces cracked down on a Sunni Arab protest camp in Iraq's northern city of Hawijah, which sparked fierce clashes across the country's predominantly Sunni provinces between the Sunni tribes and the security forces.
Overall levels of violence by insurgent groups have since escalated and become audacious, as waves of massive bombings and almost daily attacks left thousands of Iraqis killed and wounded.