BAGHDAD – The United Nations said Wednesday that at least 1,119 Iraqis died in violence in September but that the real figure was likely much higher since the reported death toll did not include killings in areas controlled by the Islamic State group.
Iraq has been facing an unprecedented crisis — the worst since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011 — after the Sunni extremist group seized a third of the country in a lightning offensive over the summer.
The onslaught by the Islamic State fighters stunned Iraq's U.S.-trained army and security forces, which melted away as the extremists advanced and captured key cities and towns. The militants have also targeted Iraq's religious minorities, including Christians and others, killing hundreds and forcing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes.
The Islamic State militants captured roughly a third of Iraq and much of eastern Syria, declaring a self-styled caliphate in the territory straddling the Iraqi-Syria border and imposing their own harsh interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led international coalition, which started in August, Iraqi government forces together with Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shiite militias have been fighting, trying to win back land from the Islamic State group.
The U.N. mission in Baghdad has little or no access to the areas engulfed in the fighting. The figures released Wednesday in the mission's monthly report were the "absolute minimum" number of casualties and they do not include deaths in the western Anbar province or other militant-held parts of northern Iraq, the U.N. said.
The September death toll included 854 civilians and 265 members of the Iraqi security forces. Another 1,946 Iraqis were wounded last month, the U.N. added. The worst-hit city was Baghdad, with 352 civilians killed, it said.
The August death toll stood at 1,420. In June, 2,400 were killed as the Islamic State fighters launched their blitz. It was the highest figure since at least April 2005.
Also Wednesday, a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a police checkpoint on a highway just south of Baghdad, killing four civilians and three policemen, a police officer and a medical official said. They added that 24 people were wounded in the explosion. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.
On Tuesday, militants unleashed a series of attacks by car bombs and roadside bombs, mainly targeting Shiite areas across Iraq and killing at least 47 people, including more than 20 in the capital, Baghdad, officials said.
No one claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, which were likely carried out by Sunni militants. The Islamic State group has claimed similar attacks in the past.