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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 20:12 GMT
Iraqi death toll hits record high
A group mourns their dead
Baghdad has been hit hardest by sectarian violence
The Iraqi death toll hit a record high in October, with more than 3,700 people losing their lives in the ongoing violence, according to a UN report.

The majority of the 3,709 people who died were killed in sectarian attacks - nearly 200 more than in the previous record month of July.

The brunt of the violence was borne in Baghdad, while the report also noted that women were increasingly victims.

The UN bases its figures on data collected by the Iraqi Health Ministry.

In other developments in Iraq:

  • The bodies of 59 people, some showing signs of torture, were found in Baghdad, according to police
  • Seven members of the Iraqi security forces were killed by a bomb in Iskandiriya, south of Baghdad, as they queued for their salaries
  • Three police officers were killed by gunmen in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad

Unknown bodies

The report set out the various dangers faced by Iraqis.

"The civilian population of Iraq continues to be victims of terrorist acts, roadside bombs, drive-by shootings, cross fire between rival gangs, or between police and insurgents, kidnappings, military operations, crime and police abuse," it said.

It also made reference to the growing numbers of unidentified bodies which turn up in various areas around the capital.

During September and October, some 3,253 such corpses were found, many thought to be the victims of death squads operating with the collusion of the police.

And it noted the deteriorating plight of women, whom it said were increasingly targets of religious extremists and so-called honour killings.

"Kidnappings associated with rape and sex slavery have also occurred."

Getting facts

Last month, one US survey estimated that some 655,000 Iraqis might still be alive but for the US-led invasion of 2003.

These figures were vigorously disputed, but there is backing for the methodology used among some statisticians.

Supporters of the war, including George W Bush, have put the civilian death toll in Iraq at 30,000. He dismissed the methodology of the recent study as "pretty well discredited".

The collation of data is an immense challenge in a country where anti-US insurgents and sectarian death squads pose a grave danger to researchers.

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