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Iraqi Deaths Up In October In Blow to US 'Surge' Policy
At least 887 Iraqis were killed last month, compared to 840 in September, according to the data compiled by the interior, defence and health ministries.
As in previous months, the dead were overwhelmingly civilians, with 758 reported killed against 116 policemen and 13 soldiers.
The October death toll remained sharply down on the August figure of 1,770 but the increase on September dented boasts from both US and Iraqi leaders that the crackdown on insurgent and militia violence was leading to a significant fall in casualties.
Again on Thursday, Iraq's minister for security, Shirwan al-Waili, insisted that the situation was improving in Baghdad and other areas.
"Because of the security plan, the violence has reduced. Baghdad is much safer," Waili told state television.
And just last week, the Iraqi army commander for the Baghdad region, General Abud Qanbar, hailed what he said was mounting evidence of the success of Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Imposing Law) launched in the capital and surrounding regions in February.
The operation has seen the deployment of 28,500 additional US troops ordered to Iraq as part of the "surge" policy of President George W. Bush.
"The level of the terrorist operations has reduced, and life has come to normality in many parts in Baghdad," Qanbar told reporters on October 24.
US second-in-command Lieutenant General Ray Odierno told the same news conference there was a "downward trend" in attacks.
"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," he said.
Iraqi casualties soared after a February 2006 attack on a revered Shiite shrine claimed by Al-Qaeda sparked an explosion of sectarian violence.
The bombing at the Al-Askari shrine in the central city of Samarra saw a sharp rise in monthly death tolls, peaking in January this year with 1,992 deaths reported by the three Iraqi ministries.
The ministry statistics are difficult to track as officals get reports of many attacks days later.
As recently as Sunday, preliminary figures floated by the three ministries had suggested the October death toll would total just 285.
The prime minister's office which used to release the data officially stopped doing so as the figures were widely disputed.
The United Nations, which used to review the statistics, has not been able to do so since earlier this year.
British website Iraqbodycount.net, which tracks Iraqi casualty figures, said 2007 could yet end up being the second deadliest year since the March 2003 invasion, after last year which saw 27,000 civilian deaths.
In new violence on Thursday, 16 Iraqis were killed, five of them in the capital, and 11 in the confessional mixed province of Diyala to its north.
The dead in Diyala, most of them security personnel, came after a suicide bombing against the province's police headquarters in the city of Baquba on Monday killed 28 policemen.
The five dead in the capital were would-be recruits to the Iraqi army from the Sunni district of Adhamiyah who had gathered at a recruitment centre in the nearby Al-Binouk neighbourhood, security officials said.
Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse