April deadliest month for Iraq since June 2008, says U.N.

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April was the deadliest month for Iraq in nearly five years, with more than 700 people killed in violence, the United Nations said on Thursday.

“The month of April was the deadliest since June 2008. A total of 712 people were killed and another 1,633 were wounded in acts of terrorism and acts of violence,” a statement from the U.N. mission in Iraq said.

“Baghdad was the worst-affected governorate, with a total of 697 civilian casualties (211 killed, 486 injured), followed by Diyala, Salaheddin, Kirkuk, Nineveh and Anbar,” the statement said.

A wave of violence began on April 23 when security forces moved on Sunni anti-government protesters near the town of Hawijah in north Iraq, sparking clashes in which 53 people were killed.

Dozens more died in subsequent unrest, including in revenge attacks targeting security forces in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Diyala, and Anbar provinces, raising fears of a return to the all-out sectarian conflict that took the lives of tens of thousands of people from 2006 to 2008.

The late-April violence was the deadliest so far linked to protests that broke out in Sunni areas of Shiite-majority Iraq more than four months ago.

The Sunni protesters have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and criticized authorities for allegedly targeting their community with wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.

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