The United Nations said Tuesday that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian violence last year, nearly three times the number reported dead by the Iraqi government.
As violence plagued Baghdad with scores killed in multiple bombings, Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq in Baghdad, said 34,452 civilians were killed and 36,685 were wounded last year.
The Iraqi Health Ministry did not comment on the U.N. report, which was based on information released by the Iraqi government and hospitals. The government has disputed previous figures released by the U.N. as "inaccurate and exaggerated."
Iraqi government figures announced in early January put last year's civilian death toll at 12,357. When asked about the difference, Magazzeni said the U.N. figures were compiled from information obtained through the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospitals across the country and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad.
"Without significant progress in the rule of law sectarian violence will continue indefinitely and eventually spiral out of control," he warned.
The U.N. report also said that 30,842 people were detained in the country as of Dec. 31, including 14,534 in detention facilities run by U.S.-led multinational forces.
It pointed to killings targeting police, who are seen by insurgents as collaborating with the U.S. effort in Iraq. The report said the Interior Ministry had reported on Dec. 24 that 12,000 police officers had been killed since the war started in 2003.
The report also painted a grim picture for other sectors of Iraqi society, saying the violence has disrupted education by forcing schools and universities to close as well as sending professionals fleeing from the country. At least 470,094 people throughout Iraq have been forced to leave their homes since the bombing in Samarra, according to the report.