More than 1,000 killed in Iraq violence in May

Residents gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad Credit: Reuters
Residents gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad
Credit: 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, in a surge stoking fears 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.”

Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki later met leaders from across Iraq’s sectarian divide in Baghdad to try to broker talks on the crisis, which previous negotiations have failed to solve.

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.

This week multiple bombings battered Shi’ite and Sunni areas of the capital Baghdad, killing nearly 100 people. Most of he 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 nearly a decade after the invasion that empowered the long-suppressed Shi’ite majority.

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 Mehdi Army, Asaib al-Haq and Kataeb Hizballah have mostly kept out of the fray. But militia commanders say they are prepared to act.

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.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD: Suspect fleeing traffic stop shot by cop…

The NYPD said an officer temporarily reassigned for the Summer All Out program shot a suspect who slammed into two NYPD cars and hit a cop in Brooklyn.

Local

De Blasio and first family will travel to…

Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City's first family will travel to Italy later this month for a summer vacation.

Local

TIPS: How to take great photos during 'Manhattanhenge'

Grab your camera and make the perfect picture this Saturday.

National

Seinfeld emoji cound be available next week

Get your puffy shirts and your marble rye ready, America. Seinfeld emoji could become available as early as next week.

Gossip

PHOTOS: Topless Cara Delevingne advocates for 'Free the…

Supermodel Cara Delevingne is never one to shy away from the gaze of social media. Yesterday, she chose to advocate for the 'Free the Nipple' campaign via Instagram, where she…

Gossip

PHOTOS: Axelle Despiegelaere AKA "most beautiful" fan gets…

Axelle Despiegelaere, the "most beautiful" soccer supporter of this year's World Cup, was fired by L'Oreal for a hunting photo on her Facebook account.

Television

Final season of 'Glee' will be only 13…

The final season of "Glee" will officially be only 13 episodes, instead of the usual 22.

Entertainment

Complex characters, juicy scripts boost Netflix's Emmy nominations

The unconventional approach to TV at Netflix netted 31 Emmy nominations, a major achievement after plunging into original programing just last year.

NBA

GIF: LeBron James returns to Cleveland so deal…

To anyone out there who is upset about his decision, this .GIF is for you. Enjoy.

World Cup

A game of two popes: Vatican plays down…

By Philip PullellaVATICAN CITY (Reuters) - With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry…

NFL

Which Jets player has the best odds at…

Metro New York asked Bovada.LV to rank the top three contenders for the NFL MVP on the Jets.

World Cup

Argentina prevails in penalties, advances to final

The drama never seems to subside as the World Cup finally has its final two.

Wellbeing

Fart gas might prevent cancer

You might not like the smell, but fart gas might help prevent cancer.

Tech

Mesh sheds light on top 10 dating deal…

What are New Yorkers' top 10 dating deal breakers? Find out here.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: Sexual headaches can be…

Sexual headaches: an under-discussed health issue Location: U.S. Results: If getting frisky brings on a headache, you’re not alone. Headaches associated with sexual activity represent a…

Food

Head to FiDi for free Chia Pods from…

They may have been last summer's darlings, but chia seeds have definitely not gone out of style. A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, they…