BAGHDAD – A suicide bombing at the funeral of an Iraqi anti-Qaeda fighter killed 12 people Sunday as figures showed nearly 950 people died last month in spiralling violence ahead of elections.
The violence, Iraq’s worst protracted period of unrest since it emerged from a gruesome Sunni-Shiite sectarian war, has sparked fears the country is slipping back into all-out bloodletting.
Officials have adopted an array of measures aimed at halting the attacks, focusing their efforts on resurgent Al-Qaeda front groups emboldened by the war raging in neighboring Syria.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the funeral of an anti-Al-Qaeda fighter who had been killed just a day earlier near the restive confessionally mixed city of Baquba.
The blast went off at the graveyard in the village of Wajihiyah where the funeral procession, which included relatives and tribesmen, for Mudher al-Shallal al-Araki had planned to bury the militiaman.
Overall, 12 people were killed and 28 others were wounded, according to a police colonel and Dr Hussein al-Tamimi from a nearby hospital.
The 27-year-old had been a fighter in the Sahwa, the militia formed of Sunni tribesmen that, from late 2006 began siding with US forces against their co-religionists in Al-Qaeda, helping turn the tide of Iraq’s insurgency.
But Sunni militants regard them as traitors and often target them for attacks.
His father was a leader in the Sahwa, and a sheikh of the Arakiya tribe.
Violence west of Baghdad on Sunday also killed four other people, officials said.
The bloodshed was the latest in a months-long spike in violence that has left more than 6,100 people dead, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials.
New data from the Iraqi ministries of health, interior and defence, meanwhile showed that 948 people were killed as a result of violence last month — 852 civilians, 53 policemen and 43 soldiers — while 1,349 others were wounded.
The overall monthly toll was marginally down on last month’s multi-year high of 964 but still among the bloodiest months in Iraq since 2008, when the country was slowly emerging from its brutal sectarian war.
AFP’s tally, meanwhile, also showed a decline in violence, but the overall toll of 692 dead was still among the highest this year.
Attacks hit all manner of targets nationwide, from civilians visiting cafes, restaurants and public football pitches, to security forces and government officials in police stations, army bases and checkpoints.
In troubling scenes reminiscent of the worst of the country’s sectarian war, meanwhile, dozens of bodies were found in Baghdad and Sunni Arab areas north of the capital.
At the peak of sectarian fighting in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, Sunni and Shiite militias regularly carried out tit-for-tat kidnappings and assassinations and left scores of corpses littering the streets.
The government has been criticised for not doing enough to address Sunni disquiet over what they see as mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led authorities.
The authorities, however, have trumpeted security operations and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki used a recent trip to Washington to push for greater intelligence sharing and the timely delivery of new weapons systems in a bid to combat militants.
The rise in violence comes ahead of general elections due to be held on April 30, the country’s first parliamentary polls in four years.