Baghdad: More than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in January, figures showed on Friday, as the country grapples with a surge in attacks and battles militants holding territory on Baghdad`s doorstep.
The violence, the country`s worst since 2008, comes with elections looming in less than three months amid fears Iraq may be slipping back into the all-out conflict that left tens of thousands dead years earlier.
World powers have urged the Shi`ite-led government to reach out to disaffected minority Sunnis but Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has taken a hard line and trumpeted wide-ranging security operations that he and other officials insist are having an impact.
The new figures, compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defence, showed that 1,013 people were killed in January, including 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen.
That was the highest toll since April 2008, when 1,073 people were killed, at a time when Iraq was slowly emerging from a brutal Sunni-Shiite sectarian war that left tens of thousands dead and scores of others displaced.
Another 2,024 people were wounded in January -- 1,633 civilians, 238 soldiers and 153 policemen.
Meanwhile, security forces killed 189 militants and arrested 458.
The numbers were higher than those compiled by a news aqgency, which tracked 992 deaths, according to reports from security and medical officials.
They confirm a wave of intensifying violence ahead of April 30 Parliamentary Elections, with near-daily bombings and shootings hitting Baghdad and cities to the north, including Mosul, Tuz Khurmatu, Baquba, Kirkuk, Samarra, Tikrit, and surrounding areas.
Shootings have largely targeted security forces and civil servants, while bombings have ripped through both Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods, striking markets, commercial streets, cafes and other areas where civilians congregate.
No group has claimed responsibility for most of the bloodshed, but Sunni militant groups including the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have been blamed for most of the attacks.
ISIL has also been fighting in Anbar province, a mostly-Sunni desert region west of Baghdad, where the government lost control of the city of Fallujah and parts of nearby Ramadi weeks ago.
Other militant groups and anti-government fighters have also been involved in the battles, while the police and Army have recruited their own tribal allies.