WASHINGTON (AFP) - Civilian deaths spiked in Iraq over the past week, around the same time the United Stated [sic] marked the fifth anniversary of the war and the milestone of 4,000 US troop deaths, a US military official said.
There were roughly 480 incidents of violence across Iraq last week, up five percent over the previous week, with a marked increase in high-profile suicide bomb attacks, the official said on condition of anonymity.
That level of violence was still well below peaks reached last year at the height of the surge in US forces into Iraq, though it is too soon to tell whether the increase signals a new trend, the official said.
"So far everything is still well below the worst of the worst, but we want to make sure that trend continues," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The US death toll for the five-year-old war hit the 4,000 mark over the weekend, with the killing of four soldiers in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.
Meanwhile Iraqi civilian deaths climbed even more steeply, by 18 percent according to the official, who put the number of civilian deaths at 71, up from 60 the previous week.
Casualties of all kinds — civilian, coalition and Iraqi security forces — have totaled about 1,190 dead so far this month in about 1,500 incidents, the official said.
"I haven't seen anything that says the trend is definitely going up," said the official, who acknowledged that increased suicide attacks and high profile bombings in recent weeks have raised concerns.
"Are they shifting tactics? Is it because the weather is better?" he said.
The military is particularly vigilant now as the drawdown of the extra US combat brigades sent to Iraq as part of a surge begins in earnest.
Speaking to CNN television General David Petraeus, the highest US commander in Iraq, also noted the increase in violence, including "some sensational attacks."
, obtained via: , March 24, 2008, 8:03pm