May 1, 2007 / 4:43 AM / 13 years ago

Iraq civilian deaths down in April: govt figures

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Violence in Iraq killed 1,506 civilians in April, nearly a 20 percent drop from the previous month, Iraqi government figures showed on Tuesday.

U.S. soldiers secure a residential area hit by mortar attack in Baghdad April 30, 2007. REUTERS/Ali Jasim

A U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad has helped reduce some violence in the city, such as sectarian death squad killings. But militants, especially al Qaeda, have sought to step up attacks outside the capital.

The figures were compiled by the interior, defense and health ministries and obtained by Reuters. The number of civilians killed in March was 1,861 from 1,645 in February.

The Baghdad security plan aims to reduce sectarian violence in the capital and its surrounding areas to give the Shi’ite-led government the chance to make progress on national reconciliation with minority Sunni Arabs.

In April, 130 Iraqi policemen and 63 Iraqi soldiers were killed, the data showed. April has been a bad month for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, with 104 killed, making it one of the deadliest months since the invasion in 2003.

The Iraqi data showed nearly 3,000 militants were detained during the month.

Civilian casualty numbers are a sensitive issue in Iraq.

The United Nations last week accused Iraq of withholding figures for this year because the government feared the data would be used to paint a “very grim” picture of the country.

The criticism was contained in a new U.N. human rights report on Iraq which drew fire from U.S. officials in Baghdad and the Iraqi government. They said it was flawed and contained numerous inaccuracies.

Officials from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said they were given no official reason why their requests for specific official data had been turned down.

In January, UNAMI said 34,452 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2006, figures that were much higher than any statistics issued by the government.

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