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31820 - Iraq violence jumps in February   02/03/2008 - 10:54:04
Bodies of family killed by gunmen in Baquba, north of Baghdad - 19/02/2008
Deaths from violence are still high but down from a year ago
The number of Iraqis killed by violence rose in February for the first time in several months, official figures show.

At least 633 civilians died, according to data from several ministries - up from more than 460 deaths in January.

The increase was mainly due to two attacks in Baghdad and one near Karbala that killed at least 150 people.

The sharp rise reverses a six-month trend of fewer casualties, but it is still down from 1,645 civilians killed in February 2007, according to Reuters.

The February 2006 bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra triggered a wave of violence in Iraq that peaked with 1,992 deaths in January 2007, according to AFP news agency.

The trend of decreasing civilian deaths from violent attacks is being attributed to an increase in US troop numbers, a ceasefire from the Mehdi army Shia militia, and the growth of Sunni Arab neighbourhood security units.

Pilgrims targeted

The two attacks in Baghdad, which took place on 1 February, were the deadliest for months in the capital and were initially blamed on two mentally disabled women.

Iraqi security forces were ordered to detain beggars and mentally disabled people found on Baghdad's streets after fears that al-Qaeda in Iraq were attempting to recruit them.

A US military official later said that the two women who had carried out the bombings had undergone psychiatric treatment for depression and schizophrenia.

A third suicide bombing in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad, took the lives of at least 50 Shia pilgrims who were making their way to a religious festival in Karbala on 24 February.

Original Location: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7272353.stm

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