Monday, February 19, 2018

UN: Iraq sees highest annual death toll in years

BAGHDAD — The United Nations said Wednesday that violence claimed the lives of 7,818 civilians in Iraq in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.

More than eight months of escalated violence has sparked fears that the country may be returning to the bloodshed of 2004-2007 that saw tens of thousands killed each year. Death tolls dipped after a U.S. troop surge and an alliance of Sunni militias with U.S. forces against al-Qaida, but soaring sectarian distrust appears to be allowing the extremist network to rebuild.

Violence spiked in April after the Shiite-led government staged a deadly crackdown on a Sunni protest camp. Iraq's al-Qaida branch has fed on Sunni discontent and on the civil war in neighboring Syria, in which mostly Sunni rebels fight a government whose base is a Shiite offshoot sect. It has targeted civilians, particularly in Shiite areas of Baghdad, with waves of coordinated car bombings and other deadly attacks.

The U.N. figures gave a total of 759 people killed in December alone, including 661 civilians and 98 members of the security forces. Another 1,345 were wounded, the statement said. The U.N.'s monthly figures for both civilians and security forces over the year totaled 8,868.

Mission chief Nickolay Mladenov called on Iraqis to take the necessary steps to stem violence. "This is a sad and terrible record which confirms once again the urgent need for the Iraqi authorities to address the roots of violence to curb this infernal circle," Mladenov was quoted in the statement as saying.

On Wednesday, al-Qaida gunmen fanned out in the streets of towns in the volatile western province of Anbar amid Sunni anger over the arrest of a prominent Sunni lawmaker and the dismantlement of a yearlong sit-in the provincial capital Ramadi in recent days.

A provincial spokesman told the Associated Press that al-Qaida fighters brandished their weapons in the streets of Ramadi and other towns, taking over police stations and military posts after security forces left. Dhari al-Rishawi said in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, gunmen broke into the main police station, setting free dozens of inmates and taking weapons.

Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed to Sunni tribes to team up with security forces to fight the militants.

"I call upon on all generous tribes in Anbar to adopt a courageous stance … and other tribes in (the provinces of) Diyala, Salaheddin, Ninevah, Baghdad and other parts of Iraq to come together," al-Maliki said in his weekly televised speech.

"I say that all our brothers in Anbar are welcomed for discussion or negotiations," he said. "We want them to come here (in Baghdad) so that we can put our hands together for the sake of Anbar to protect it from foreign agendas and Takfiri ideology." Takfirism refers to hard-liners who consider other Muslims to be infidels, and Maliki's invocation of it appears to be an attempt to remind Sunnis in Anbar, who were among the first to turn on al-Qaida in 2005-07, that they too had been targeted by extremists.

Comments
The Latest: Pennsylvania congressional map could boost Dems

The Latest: Pennsylvania congressional map could boost Dems

New boundaries of congressional districts being imposed by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court could boost Democratic Party's quest to capture control of US House in 2018's elections
Updated: 5 minutes ago

AP Top News at 3:56 p.m. EST

AP Top News at 3:56 p.m. EST
Updated: 6 minutes ago
ND repeats football win over LSU with football player's help

ND repeats football win over LSU with football player's help

Notre Dame wins series at LSU with help from Cole Kmet, two-sport athlete who played in Irish's Citrus Bowl victory over Tigers
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Insiderís guide to Honeymoon Island: About the beach, planning your trip, where to park

Insiderís guide to Honeymoon Island: About the beach, planning your trip, where to park

Honeymoon Island’s popular beach features a glimpse of relatively development-free Florida, while being only a short jaunt from suburban amenities.The land actually was part of Caladesi Island immediately to the south until a 1921 hurricane she...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Beltre still the big name for Rangers without big additions

Beltre still the big name for Rangers without big additions

Adrian Beltre would have brought in some big-time free agents had he been the one making decisions for the Texas Rangers
Updated: 15 minutes ago
The Latest: Experts counsel shooting survivors on grieving

The Latest: Experts counsel shooting survivors on grieving

Psychiatrist cautions survivors they may want to limit the funeral services they attend after 17 people were fatally gunned down at a Florida high school
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Scandals highlight Israeli leader's media obsession

Scandals highlight Israeli leader's media obsession

Benjamin Netanyahu came to prominence as a star of the media age, but it is an obsession with controlling the media that now accounts for much of the scandal threatening his rule
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Pennsylvania court issues overhauled congressional map

Pennsylvania court issues overhauled congressional map

Pennsylvania Supreme Court imposes new congressional district map for state's 2018 elections, likely setting up a challenge from Republicans; map could boost Democrats' quest to capture control of US House
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Scandals highlight Israeli leader's media obsession

Scandals highlight Israeli leader's media obsession

Benjamin Netanyahu came to prominence as a star of the media age, but it is an obsession with controlling the media that now accounts for much of the scandal threatening his rule
Updated: 16 minutes ago

Judge grants $300M loan for Puerto Rico power company

A judge has approved a $300 million loan for Puerto Rico's power company that officials say will help keep the agency operating until late March
Updated: 19 minutes ago