U.N. says 703 Iraqis killed in violence in February

The figures issued by the U.N.’s mission to Iraq is close to that of January’s toll of 733

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The United Nations said on Saturday that a total of 703 Iraqis were killed by violence in February, excluding deaths of insurgents and those from an embattled western province.

The figures issued by the U.N.’s mission to Iraq is close to that of January’s toll of 733 and shows that a surge of violence, that began 10 months ago with a government crackdown on a Sunni protest camp, is not receding.

A total of 564 civilians and 139 members of the security forces were killed. UNAMI added that 1,381 more Iraqis, including 1,179 civilians, were wounded.

The capital, Baghdad, was the worst affected with 239 people killed. Two predominantly Sunni provinces - central Salaheddin with 121 killed and northern Ninevah with 94 killed - followed.

As in January figures, UNAMI statement excluded deaths from ongoing fighting in Anbar, due to problems in verifying the “status of those killed.”

Al-Qaida-linked fighters and their allies seized the city of Fallujah and parts of the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi in late December after authorities dismantled a protest camp. Like the camp in the northern Iraqi town of Hawija whose dismantlement in April sparked violent clashes and set off the current upsurge in killing, the Anbar camp was set up by Sunnis angry at what they consider second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government.

The government and its tribal allies are besieging the rebel-held areas, with fighting reported daily.

U.N. mission chief, Nickolay Mladenov, appealed to Iraqis to come together so that they can stop violence.

“The political, social and religious leaders of Iraq have an urgent responsibility to come together in the face of the terrorist threat that the country is facing,” Mladenov said. “Only by working together can Iraqis address the causes of violence and build a democratic society in which rule of law is observed and human rights are protected,” he said.

Last year, the country saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures. The U.N.’s death toll for last year was 8,868.

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