Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Iraq hit by worst violence since 2008

Iraqi authorities have failed to bring the wave of unrest under control, and have so far not addressed the underlying political issues that analysts say are driving the attacks, while the UN envoy has warned that the violence is "ready to explode".

Figures for the May death toll ranged from more than 600, according to government figures, to more than 1 000, based on UN figures.

Either figure would make the violence the deadliest since 2008.

Agence France-Presse figures, based on information from security and medical sources, indicated that 614 people were killed and 1 550 wounded, while data from Iraq's government ministries put the toll at 681 dead and 1 097 wounded.

The UN gave a significantly higher toll of 1 045 people killed and 2 397 wounded.

The figures were released ahead of a meeting of leading politicians including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and several of his key rivals planned for Saturday afternoon.

The long-mooted meeting is aimed at resolving a wide variety of disputes between the country's political blocs, some of which have persisted for several years. Analysts often link political instability to increases in attacks.

'Ready to explode'
UN envoy Martin Kobler warned on Thursday that "systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment" if Iraqi leaders do not resolve their disagreements.

While violence has mainly targeted the government and members of Iraq's Shiite majority in the past, unrest in May was more wide-ranging, with major attacks that hit Sunnis as well.

Attacks killed Iraqis during all aspects of daily life.

Bombings cut down worshippers in mosques, shoppers in markets and people mourning those killed in attacks. One Baghdad car bomb even tore through a group of people cheering a bride ahead of her wedding.

Although violence in Iraq has fallen from its peak at the height of the sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007, when monthly death toll repeatedly topped 1 000, the numbers have begun to rise again.

The country has seen a heightened level of violence since the beginning of the year, coinciding with rising discontent in the Sunni Arab minority that erupted into protests in late December.

Members of the minority, which ruled the country from its establishment after World War I until Saddam Hussein's overthrow by US-led forces in 2003, accuse the Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting their community.

Placating protesters
Analysts say government policies that have disenfranchised Sunnis have given militant groups in Iraq both fuel and room to manoeuvre among the disillusioned community.

The government has made some concessions aimed at placating protesters and Sunnis in general, such as freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of Sunni anti-Qaeda fighters, but underlying issues have yet to be addressed.

Both analysts and officials say that dealing with underlying political issues, including Sunni grievances and disputes over issues ranging from control of territory to power-sharing, is key to curbing the violence.

But Iraqi authorities are approaching the unrest as a security issue alone, and have failed to address its root causes.

So far, Baghdad's response has largely been limited to actions by security forces, a shakeup of senior officers, and announcing a series of vague new measures related to security. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

W.G. Dunlop
Wg Dunlop
Editor for @AFP in DC. Six years in Iraq, also reported from the Gulf, Levant & North Africa. Usual caveats.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

R15m to rid Gauteng of dirty air

The World Bank is funding a plan to deal with air pollution in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg

Reservations about ‘new deal’ for rhinos, lions, elephant, leopards

Draft policy promotes species playing their role in wilderness systems but one conservationist says leopards are being sold out

More top stories

Malawi moves to Maggie Mkandawire’s beat

Empowering her people through music and education, Maggie Mkandawire fights the Covid-19 pandemic in her own unique way

Vaccines split global recovery – IMF

The global economy will expand by 6% this year but the economic gap between nations is widening.

R15m to rid Gauteng of dirty air

The World Bank is funding a plan to deal with air pollution in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Johannesburg

Reservations about ‘new deal’ for rhinos, lions, elephant, leopards

Draft policy promotes species playing their role in wilderness systems but one conservationist says leopards are being sold out
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×