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Post by TLF Sat Jun 01, 2013 8:56 pm

More than 1,000 killed in Iraq violence in May

Yahoo News 1000 dead D0c3eb8ca18907492a4b337b5cec5193By Patrick Markey | Reuters – 4 hrs ago











  • Yahoo News 1000 dead 2013-06-01T072750Z_1_CBRE9500KQK00_RTROPTP_2_CNEWS-US-IRAQ-VIOLENCEView Photo
    Reuters/Reuters - Iraqi security personnel inspect the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad, May 30, 2013. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani












By Patrick Markey

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - 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 as al Qaeda and Sunni Islamist insurgents, invigorated by the Sunni-led revolt in Syria
and by Sunni discontent at home, seek to revive the kind of all-out
inter-communal conflict that killed tens of thousands five years ago.

"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 Shi'ite-led government and the Sunni minority, seething with resentment at their treatment since Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 and later hanged.

Shi'ite 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 al Qaeda's wing, Islamic State of Iraq, and
Naqshbandi rebels linked to ex-officers in Saddam's army, are now
trying to provoke a Shi'ite militia 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 defense 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 neighborhoods 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.

"Shi'ite militant groups have largely stayed out of recent violence.
If they are behind bombings of Sunni mosques, that suggests that they
are being drawn into conflict," said Stephen Wicken, at the Institute
for the Study of War in Washington.

"That would set the conditions up for a slide into broader sectarian conflict."

Syria's war, where mostly Sunni rebels are trying to topple
President Bashar al-Assad, has further frayed ties between Iraq's
Shi'ites and Sunnis. Iraqi fighters from both sects are crossing the
border to fight for opposite sides in Syria.

Iraqi Shi'ite officials fear an Sunni Islamist
take-over in Syria if Assad, whose Alawite sect is rooted in Shi'ite
Islam, falls. Such fears reflect a broader regional rivalry between
Shi'ite, non-Arab Iran and Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia.

Maliki has often upset his Sunni and ethnic Kurdish partners involved in a delicate power-sharing deal.

Soon after U.S. troops left, Iraqi authorities arrested the
bodyguards of Maliki's Sunni vice-president and a year later those of
the Sunni finance minister. The arrests were officially linked to
terrorism cases, but they aggravated Sunni fears.

Since December, thousands of Sunnis have protested against the government in Sunni-dominated provinces such as Anbar.

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.

(Reporting by Patrick Markey; Editing by Jon Hemming)
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