Civilian killings in Iraq plunge in Sept -govt data

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BAGHDAD, Oct 1 (Reuters) Civilian deaths from violence across Iraq fell by 50 per cent in September from the previous month to the lowest level recorded this year, government data showed today.

Information provided by the Health, Interior and Defence Ministries showed that 884 civilians were killed in September, down from 1,773 in August.

A total of 850 civilians were wounded, the figures showed, also well down on the previous month's 1,559.

The casualties were also the lowest recorded since Washington poured an extra 30,000 US troops into Iraq as part of a last-ditch security crackdown aimed at al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab militants and Shi'ite militias across the country.

The crackdown was designed to buy time for Iraq's political leaders to reach benchmarks aimed at reconciling majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.

The US military said yesterday that violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan had fallen by 38 per cent on last year, mainly because of the ''surge'' of extra troops and a change in strategy to move troops out of large bases into smaller combat outposts.

About a quarter of the number of civilians killed in August comprised 411 who died in massive truck bombings against the minority Yazidi community in northern Iraq on August 14.

The previous lowest monthly total during the ''surge'' was in June -- the month when the US troop buildup came into full effect with the last of five extra brigades being deployed -- when 1,227 Iraqis were killed.

The government figures showed that 78 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed, down slightly from the 87 killed in August.

The data also said 366 militants were killed, a drop of 106 from August, with the number of detentions also down by about a quarter despite the security crackdown.

The US military death toll in September was also the lowest monthly total this year, with 62 killed according to the Web site, which tracks military deaths in Iraq.

That figure is the lowest since July last year, when 43 were killed.

US army officers have put the drop in troop deaths down to the security crackdown, which began in mid-February and then fanned out into other volatile areas around the capital.


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