Iraq bloodshed surges ahead of Maliki-Obama talks

Iraq bloodshed surges ahead of Maliki-Obama talks
Mourners pray over the coffin of a victim who was killed in a bomb attack outside a cafe, during a funeral in Najaf, 160 km (99 miles) south of Baghdad, October 21, 2013.

BAGHDAD - Violence in Iraq is at its worst level since 2008, figures showed Friday, as premier Nuri al-Maliki was to appeal for Barack Obama's help to combat a spike in militancy.

The new figures illustrate a months-long surge in unrest despite wide-ranging operations targeting insurgents and a major tightening of security in Baghdad and elsewhere, with little sign of respite ahead of elections due within months.

Maliki is to call for more military equipment and greater security cooperation in talks with the US president later on Friday in Washington, after likening the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked militants to a third world war.

New figures released by the ministries of health, interior and defence showed that violence last month left 964 people dead - 855 civilians, 65 policemen and 44 soldiers - and a further 1,600 wounded.

The overall death toll was the highest since April 2008, when 1,073 people were killed.

At the time, Iraq was slowly emerging from a brutal sectarian war that claimed tens of thousands of lives, with concerns reemerging that the country is on the brink of sliding back into another round of such bloodletting.

Violence continued to roil Iraq on Friday, meanwhile, with four people killed in the north of the country.

Figures compiled by AFP based on reports from security and medical officials, meanwhile, showed a decline in violence last month, but still put the death toll at one of the highest figures of the year.

Overall, at least 743 people were killed by attacks in Iraq in October, according to the AFP tally, more than similar figures for January, February and March combined.

Attacks struck all manner of sites in Iraq last month, from public parks and restaurants to funerals and government buildings, targeting security forces, civilians and civil servants, with dozens of suicide bombings and vehicles packed with explosives ripping through towns and cities.

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