BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The number of Iraqi civilians killed in violent attacks rose in April to 290, the highest this year, after a rash of bombings, government figures on Thursday.
The figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry showed 105 Iranians were also killed in Iraq violence this month.
The civilian death toll was up from 180 in March and fears are growing that recent attacks, many of them targeting Shi’ite pilgrims, could push Iraq back into the sectarian conflict unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Suicide bombs killed 150 people over two days last week, many of whom were pilgrims visiting Shi’ite holy sites from neighbouring Iran. On Wednesday, two suicide attacks killed 51 people in a Shi’ite area of Baghdad.
Some fear violence could increase as U.S. combat troops prepare to withdraw from urban bases and Iraq looks towards national elections at the end of the year.
The number of Iraqis killed in April is a far cry from the 968 civilians killed in April 2008.
The number of American soldiers killed in Iraq also increased in April from the previous month.
As of Thursday evening, 10 U.S. soldiers had died in hostile action in Iraq in April, according to Web site www.icasualties.org, which collates official data.
On April 10, a suicide bomber killed five U.S. troops and two Iraqi policemen in northern Mosul, Iraq’s most violent city, which is viewed as a stronghold of Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.
The previous month, the number of U.S. troops who died in combat fell to four, the lowest level since the 2003 invasion.
More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. Close to 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq in violence during that time, according to www.iraqbodycount.org.
Writing by Missy Ryan; editing by Robert Woodward