BAGHDAD, Iraq – Around 1,200 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence in June, a 36 percent drop from the previous month and the lowest monthly toll this year, according to Iraqi government figures obtained Sunday.
The decrease comes amid a U.S. troop increase in Baghdad that began in February and has been building since, with the military launching simultaneous offensives in mid-June aimed at uprooting insurgents in the capital and neighboring provinces to the northeast and south.
A U.S. military spokesman said the decrease was encouraging but that it was too early to attribute it to the crackdown. "The synchronized effort only began two weeks ago. It's too early to declare a trend," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver.
June saw heavy U.S. military casualties, with 101 American servicemembers killed. That made the toll from the April-June period — 331 — the deadliest quarter for U.S. troops in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.
An officer at the Iraqi Interior Ministry's operations room said 1,227 Iraqi civilians were killed in June, along with 190 policemen and 31 soldiers. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the figures.
In May, 1,949 civilians were killed, along with 127 policemen and 47 soldiers, according to ministry figures. The total of Iraqis killed in May was the third highest monthly toll since The Associated Press began tracking civilian casualties in April 2005.
U.S. President George W. Bush ordered nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq this year in a major push to pacify Baghdad and surrounding areas, and in June, deployment of the force was completed. On Friday, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., said American and Iraqi security forces now control 48 percent to 49 percent of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad — up from 19 percent in April.
U.S. troops launched two large offensives on June 15, one in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, the other in regions south of the capital where insurgent control had grown, allowing them to launch attacks in Baghdad. Commanders in Diyala. have claimed successes in dislodging insurgents, but they acknowledge three-quarters of the senior militant commanders escaped.
Seven Iraqi policemen were killed Sunday in two bombing attacks. A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed truck at a checkpoint at the entrance of the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, killing five policemen, an officer in Fallujah said.
In eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded near policemen, killing two. After the blast, gunmen sped by in a car, spraying machine gun fire, wounding three policemen and three civilians in the capital's Zayouna neighborhood, a police officer said. Both officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
Elsewhere in the capital, gunmen in a vehicle opened fire on a minibus carrying Shiite day laborers in the mixed district of Saydiyah, killing one passenger and wounding four others, police said.
Also Sunday, the bullet-riddled body of a senior police commander was discovered in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city about 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, police said.
Col. Nasser Hamoud, who was in charge of the city's prisons, had been kidnapped along with three of his guards the day before, another officer said on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals. The guards were released a few hours later, he said.
Hamoud's hands and legs were bound, and his body showed signs of torture, the officer said.
He was a member of the Shiite Fadhila party, an influential Shiite group that controls Basra's provincial government.