An ornate sword originally belonging to Saddam Hussein was ceremonially given back to the Republic of Iraq yesterday after a soldier looted it from the dictator's personal office in 2003.
Bloodshed has unfortunately become commonplace in Iraq. And it reached a fevered pitch this year, the United Nations said in a monthly tally of violent deaths.
The United Nations said Thursday that July was Iraq’s deadliest month in more than five years, describing a series of bombings and shootings as an epidemic of sectarian-tinged violence that had killed 1,057 Iraqis and wounded 2,326. The organization’s acting special representative for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, said in a statement that the severity of the mayhem was the worst since 2008, when Iraq verged on civil war after the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and his Sunni minority from power.
Iraq: 1,057 Killed in July, U.N. Says, New York Times
Most of the 1,057 victims were civilians, killed in a relentless campaign of bombings and shootings that some Iraqis fear could drag the country into another war.
The killings significantly picked up after Iraqi security forces launched a heavy-handed crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija on April 23. A ferocious backlash followed the raid, with deadly bomb attacks and sporadic gunbattles between insurgents and soldiers — this time members of the Iraqi security forces rather than U.S. troops.
The violence has affected most areas of Iraq.
Iraq Sees Deadliest Month in Years, Voice of America
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is blaming opponents and allies alike for his government’s failures, accusing a deputy of giving him wrong information about power outages and charging that the Shiite Mahdi Army was behind the recent escape of prisoners from Baghdad jails.
In an interview with Al Iraqiya TV, a semi-official channel in Iraq that gathered Maliki and a number of Iraqi political commentators, the premier said that electricity blackouts across the country were not his fault.
“Hussein Shahristani, Iraqi deputy PM for energy affairs, has given me incorrect information about the level of electricity production in Iraq,” said Maliki, whose Shiite-led government has been adrift as attacks and bombings have risen dramatically, and the country’s large Sunni and Kurdish minorities no longer regard him as the man to lead Iraq.
“Unfortunately these mistakes happen at a time when the Iraqi PM has three deputies. Each deputy prime minister should have acted responsibly towards the problems of social services,” said Maliki, providing a glimpse into the turmoil and disunity inside his own inner circle.
In the same interview, Maliki blamed the fellow-Shiite Sadr Movement’s Mahdi Army for this month’s attacks on teahouses and cafes in Baghdad.
Amid the most deadly month in Iraq in five years, the Pentagon notified Congress last week that it is nearing three deals with the government of Iraq worth nearly $2 billion that would provide military equipment, maintenance, training and general support.