UN tallies Iraq's deadliest month of 2014: 750 killed in April
An Iraqi man casts his vote at a polling station in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP / Nabil al-Jurani)
Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:33AM EDT
BAGHDAD -- The United Nations says 750 Iraqis were killed in violence in April, the highest monthly death toll of this year.
The figures issued Thursday by the UN's mission to Iraq show that 610 civilians and 140 members of the security forces were killed last month. UNAMI added that 1,541 more Iraqis, including 1,311 civilians, were wounded.
The capital, Baghdad, was the worst affected with 252 people killed. The northern province of Ninevah came in second with 119 killed, followed by eastern Diyala province with 71 killed.
The figures excluding deaths in embattled Anbar province, where militants control parts of two cities.
This year's previous highest death toll was January with 733 killed.
Iraq is experiencing some of its worst bloodshed since sectarian violence nearly tore it apart following the U.S.-led invasion.
This is a breaking news update. Our earlier story follows:
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday that a high turnout in parliament elections the previous day was a "slap in the face of terrorism" as government forces battle al Qaeda-inspired militants west of the capital, Baghdad.
Addressing a news conference in Baghdad, al-Maliki also invited his critics, including onetime Shiite allies, to put the bickering and rivalry of Wednesday's election behind them and join him in a majority government.
Al-Maliki's remarks reflected confidence that he would get another term in office following Wednesday's balloting -- Iraq's first nationwide election since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011 -- and retain the post he has held since 2006.
The turnout from among Iraq's 22 million eligible voters was estimated to have exceeded 60 per cent on Wednesday, al-Maliki said. In Anbar, where al Qaeda-inspired militants control some parts, the turnout was around 50 per cent, he added.
Although the election commission has yet to announce official figures, it was a high turnout, given the pre-election concerns that fear of violence could keep many voters at home.
Al-Maliki's State of Law bloc was widely expected to win the most seats in the 328-member parliament but fall short of a majority -- meaning he would have to cobble together a coalition, an undertaking that took nine months after the last elections, in 2010.
"This election defeated al Qaeda and the ISIL," al-Maliki said, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a splinter al Qaeda group whose fighters are battling government security forces in Anbar, a mainly Sunni province west of Baghdad. "It was a slap in the face of terrorism."
Some of al-Maliki's former Shiite backers have accused him of trying to amass power for himself, but many in the majority sect see no alternative to the 63-year-old prime minister. He enjoys crucial support of neighbouring powerhouse Iran, and there are speculations he could use that backing to push discontented Shiite factions into supporting his leadership for another term.
However, many Sunni Arabs distrust him and see him as too close to Shiite Iran, while Kurds are irked by what they view as his meddling in the affairs of their self-ruled region in northern Iraq.
Also Thursday, al-Maliki said he would open talks with all blocs but would not be searching for a broad-based coalition as has been the case the past decade, when governments included Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
A majority government that can operate effectively is what he'll be looking for, he said. A "national unity" government is an "experiment that we will use all our energy and effort not to repeat," he said.
Election workers are counting the ballots, with first results expected in the coming days.
Al-Maliki declined to speculate on how his bloc fared in the election, saying he would leave the election commission to announce the results. The bloc won 89 seats in the last election in 2010.