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Killings in Iraq rise as election nears

The increase in killings in Iraq before next Sunday’s elections is raising doubts about the easing out of US troops by the end of next year. The increase in killings in Iraq before next Sunday’s elections is raising doubts about the easing out of US troops by the end of next year. (Mushtaq Muhammed/ Reuters)
Associated Press / March 2, 2010

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BAGHDAD - The number of Iraqis killed in war-related violence increased by 44 percent between January and February, with civilians accounting for almost all of the casualties.

The rise in killings raised doubts about the atmosphere before next Sunday’s Iraqi election, which the United States hopes will produce a stable government that could ease withdrawal of American troops by the end of next year.

Casualty figures have fluctuated widely in recent months and are far below those seen in past years, when sectarian violence was rampant. But the rise in killings is reflected in numbers collected both by the Associated Press and by Iraqi authorities.

At least 255 Iraqis were killed in war-related violence last month, according to an AP count, 44 percent more than the 177 reported in January. At least 383 Iraqis were killed in December and 93 in November, reflecting no clear trend.

The AP statistics also show that more violence was directed at civilians than at security personnel in February, compared with the previous three months. Ninety-three percent of those killed in February were civilians, compared with about two-thirds in November, December, and January.

Figures provided by Iraqi authorities reflect more killings but a similar increase. At least 352 Iraqis were killed in February, up 41 percent from the 250 recorded in January, according statistics obtained by the Iraqi Health, Defense, and Interior ministries. According to the Iraqi numbers, about 85 percent of those killed in February were civilians, as opposed to 54 percent in January.