More than 600 civilians were killed in acts of terrorism and violence in Iraq last month, bringing the death toll to nearly 11,000 in the past year, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.
While February was the least deadly month for civilians since May 2014, the number of non-combatants killed since the beginning of the year reflects at least a three-year high and escalating violence in Iraq, where the Islamic State group has taken a foothold after a bloody decade of foreign military intervention in the country.
Iraq Body Count, a Britain-based NGO that tracks violence in Iraq, reported even higher civilian tolls in February, citing almost 700 deaths at the hands of Islamic State fighters and hundreds more resulting from airstrikes, army operations and unknown perpetrators.
“Daily terrorist attacks perpetrated by [Islamic State] continue to deliberately target all Iraqis. There are also concerning reports of a number of revenge killings by armed groups in areas recently liberated from [Islamic State]," said U.N. Special Representative for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered a probe into allegations that Shia militias massacred Sunni residents in Diyala province during a January military operation to push out Islamic State militants. The accusations by survivors resurrect concerns over sectarian violence that has crippled politics and security in the country.
Mladenov urged the Iraqi government to ensure that local police allow residents fleeing Islamic State fighters to return to their homes "in peace and security."
Some material for this report came from AP.