BAGHDAD -- More than 2,660 Iraqi civilians were killed in Baghdad in September, according to new Health Ministry figures -- 400 more than the month before despite an intensified US-Iraqi sweep aimed at reining in violence.
The numbers indicate how tough the vital battle to secure Baghdad has proven amid a wave of bloodshed this year, not only from Sunni Arab insurgents but also from Shi'ite and Sunni death squads who kidnap and kill members of the opposing sect.
So far, October has brought no relief. A US soldier died yesterday from a roadside bomb while patrolling in Baghdad. That brought to 40 the number of Americans killed across Iraq the past 11 days -- a pace not seen since the US attack on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in November 2004.
Three car bombs in different parts of Baghdad and attacks elsewhere in the country killed at least 14 Iraqis yesterday. Bodies of 11 suspected victims of sectarian slayings were found around the southern city of Kut, while police in the northern city of Mosul discovered the beheaded corpse of a priest.
No cumulative figures for Iraqi deaths in October have been released. But several times this month, police have reported finding 50 to 60 bodies dumped around Baghdad over a 24-hour period, suggesting the bloodshed has not waned.
The wave of killings in Iraq this year has prompted US officials to warn of a change in American policy unless Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government shows within a few months that it can rein in militias blamed for sectarian violence.
Since Aug. 7, thousands of US and Iraqi soldiers have been pursuing Operation Together Forward in Baghdad, moving from district to district and searching building by building to clear out weapons and hunt down militiamen and insurgents. They have seized more than 1,700 weapons and arrested more than 120 people.
They have also staged raids on prominent militia figures.
But the numbers from the Iraqi Health Ministry suggested that by the end of September, the sweep had yet to slow the bloodshed.
A total of 2,667 civilians in Baghdad died violent deaths during September, two senior Health Ministry officials said. this week, based on an official monthly report from the ministry to the Cabinet.
By comparison, 2,222 people died violently in August in Baghdad, according to a UN report published in September, which was also based on official statistics from the Health Ministry.
Sectarian violence was sparked by the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad. Shi'ites, a chief target in three years of Sunni insurgent attacks, responded with attacks on Sunnis, starting a cycle of reprisal killings.
US troops have taken a heavy blow in the growing violence. In September, 71 Americans were killed -- 28 in Baghdad -- the second deadliest month this year after April, when 76 died. The number of American soldiers wounded in September was 776, the highest since the Fallujah siege.
Iraq's Shi'ite-led parliament yesterday pushed through a law allowing the formation of federal regions despite Sunni Arab objections that will splinter the country and fuel sectarian violence.