Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Civilian Deaths Hit New High in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi civilian deaths in political violence reached a new high in January, data from an interior ministry official showed Thursday.

Also Thursday, nine people were killed in bomb blasts in central Baghdad and mortars rained down on a Sunni neighborhood.

The ministry statistics, widely viewed as an indicative but only partial record of violent deaths, showed 1,971 people died from "terrorism" in January, slightly up from the previous high of 1,930 deaths recorded in December 2006.

The figures from the Interior Ministry source are collated from various ministries and while not comprehensive, are a guide to trends that are consistent with data from other sources.

The United Nations, which gathers data from the Health Ministry and Baghdad's morgue, put the number of civilian deaths in December at 2,914, down from 3,462 in November.

All such statistics are controversial in Iraq. The latest tally given by the UN was branded exaggerated by the Iraqi government. The U.S. military gives no such figures. The Iraqi government, visibly frustrated at its inability to rein in the increasing violence, has stopped publishing figures.

The Interior Ministry toll refers to people killed in "terrorism" -- a category that may not include many of the dozens of unidentified bodies found daily in Baghdad, many the victims of sectarian death squads.

January's figures also put the number of insurgents killed at 590, the highest toll for at least a year. That included a fierce battle between security forces and a shadowy sect near the holy city of Najaf on Sunday in which the government has said around 260 gunmen were killed.

A man strapped with explosives blew himself up Thursday in a minibus in Baghdad, shredding the vehicle and killing six people and wounding 12.