At least 887 Iraqis killed in October

11-01-2007, 14h38

At least 887 Iraqis were killed in Iraq in October, ministry data showed on Thursday, slightly higher than September which saw a total of 840 people killed across the nation.

Data from Iraq's interior, defence and health ministries showed that 758 civilians, 116 policemen and 13 soldiers were killed in attacks across Iraq in October.

Earlier, AFP reported that 554 Iraqis were killed last month and another 333 bodies were found across the country, many of them of people killed in previous months.

A security official with access to the data, however, said these bodies were of people also killed in October, taking the overall death toll for the month to 887.

The October death toll is marginally higher than the 840 reported in September which was nevertheless half the August toll of 1,770.

The bloodshed that broke out in Iraq after an attack on Shiite Al-Askari shrine in the central city of Samarra in February last year peaked in January this year with 1,992 deaths reported by the three ministries.

Iraqi casualty figures are difficult to track as officals get reports of many attacks days after the incidents.

The prime minister's office which used to release the data officially also stopped doing so as it was widely disputed. The office used to give the figures after violence surged in the post-shrine attack period.

The United Nations, one of the reliable sources of information, also stopped providing the data since early this year.

British website, which tracks the casualty figures, said that 2007 could still end being the second worst year since the March 2003 invasion, behind 2006 which recorded 27,000 civilian deaths.

US and Iraqi commanders claim that violence has been declining in the recent months, saying it was a proof of the success of a joint crackdown on insurgent and militias launched in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since February 2007.

They claim that in Baghdad and its surrounding areas violence has reduced after the launch of Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing Law) in February.

The operation is backed by some of the extra 28,500 US troops deployed in Iraq as part of the "surge" ordered by President George W. Bush.

Iraqi military General Abud Qanbar, who heads the Baghdad operation, said that all indicators showed that the military assault was successful.

"The level of the terrorist operations has reduced, and life has come to normality in many parts in Baghdad," he told reporters on October 24.

Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the US second-in-command in Iraq, also supported his view, saying there was a "downward trend" in attacks since June.

"Improvised explosive device attacks, the extremists' preferred method of terror, have also been reduced, down well over 60 percent in the past four months, with notably reduced lethality," Odierno said at the same press conference along with Qanbar.

Insurgents, however, seem to have stepped up attacks in the restive Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, in the past few days.

Diyala, a mixed Shiite and Sunni province, is one of the most dangerous regions of Iraq with daily reports of kidnappings and killings.

On Thursday, 11 people were killed in Diyala, most of them security personnel and on Monday a bomber riding a bicycle blew himself up at the police headquarters of Baquba, the provincial capital, killing 28 policemen.

Dozens of corpses, of men killed in apparent sectarian attacks, have also been found across the province in the past few weeks.

US and Iraqi forces are carrying out military assaults in the province said to be a hideout of Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters.