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Iraqi deaths hit new high in Oct: United Nations

Written by: Staff

Baghdad, Nov 22: Iraqi deaths hit a new high in October and more than 2 million people have fled their homes since the U S invasion to escape violence that is segregating the country on sectarian lines, a UN report said today.

October's civilian death toll of 3,709 was up from 3,345 in September, according to UN figures based on Health Ministry data.

July's death toll of 3,590 had been the highest to date.

The report said the deteriorating security situation increased poverty and generated ''unparalleled'' population movement, with 418,392 people displaced within Iraq due to sectarian violence since the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, which triggered a surge in violence.

It said in addition to those displaced in Iraq, nearly 100,000 people were fleeing to Syria and Jordan every month, taking the total number estimated to have sought refuge abroad since the U S-led invasion of March 2003 to 1.6 million.

Baghdad was the epicentre of the violence, accounting for nearly 5,000 of all the deaths in September and October, with most of the bodies bearing signs of torture and gunshot wounds.

In its bimonthly human rights report, the United Nations said sectarian attacks were the main source of violence, fuelled by insurgent attacks and militias as well as criminal groups.

''Entire communities have been affected to various degrees and, in some areas, neighbourhoods have been split up or inhabitants have been forced to flee to other areas or even to neighbouring countries in search of safety,'' the report said.


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