BAGHDAD Nearly 800 people were killed in violence across Iraq in May, the United Nations said on Sunday, making it the deadliest month so far this year.
Of the total 799 people killed, 196 were members of the Iraqi security forces, and the rest were civilians - often victims of attacks by Sunni Islamist insurgents who have been regaining ground and momentum in Iraq over the past year.
The real toll is in fact higher because the UN figures do not include casualties in the western province of Anbar, where the Iraqi army has been fighting tribal and insurgent groups since they overran two cities at the start of the year.
Despite deteriorating security, Iraq's incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won the largest share of parliamentary seats in national elections last month, dealing a blow to his opponents who blame him for leading the country to ruin.
Bloodshed remains below the levels seen in 2006 and 2007 when sectarian Shi'ite-Sunni killings reached their peak, but last year was Iraq's deadliest since violence began to ease in 2008.
“I strongly deplore the sustained level of violence and terrorist acts that continues rocking the country," UN envoy to Iraq Nikolay Mladenov said in a statement.
"I urge the political leaders to work swiftly for the formation of an inclusive government within the constitutionally mandated timeframe and focus on a substantive solution to the situation in Anbar.”
Excluding Anbar, the worst affected governorate was Baghdad, where 315 people were killed. The Sunni-dominated northern province of Nineveh was the second most violent, followed by Salahaddin, Kirkuk and Diyala.
The UN said figures from the Anbar health directorate put the number of civilian casualties there at 195, with about half in the provincial capital Ramadi and the rest in the city of Fallujah, which is just 70 km (43 miles) west of Baghdad.
Monitoring group Iraq Body Count put the monthly civilian death toll across Iraq higher at 1,027, bringing its tally so far this year to 5,055, of which 521 people were killed in Fallujah alone by government forces.
(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Susan Fenton)