June death toll of Iraqis highest in 11 months
Offering a possible harbinger of what is to come now that U.S. troops have withdrawn from Iraq’s cities, the death toll in June among Iraqis was the highest in 11 months, the nation’s Health Ministry reported Wednesday.
A total of 438 Iraqis died in June in shootings, bombings and assassinations, 68 of them members of the security forces. That’s the highest number since July 2008, when 465 Iraqis died violently, and includes the tolls from a series of deadly bombings such as the one near Kirkuk last week that killed more than 70 people. It’s also 2 2/3 times the figure for May, when 165 people died, the lowest monthly toll of the war.
Iraqis have this week been celebrating the departure of U.S. troops from their cities, but in fact the withdrawal has been taking place for months. By June, most American military personnel had vacated the bases they had been designated to leave. So the jump in fatalities could raise concerns as to what Iraqis might face now that U.S. forces are no longer patrolling their cities.
But the violence in Iraq has a habit of waxing and waning, and monthly tolls don’t give a good idea of where trends are heading.
The U.S. military says insurgents are no longer capable of sustaining prolonged assaults and instead focus on generating bursts of bloodshed. A comparison between the half-yearly figures for this year and last makes it clear that the level of violence is in steep decline. In the first six months of 2008, 4,514 Iraqis died violently; in the first half of this year, that figure fell to 1,657.