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Iraq death toll soars

BAGHDAD: At least 447 Iraqi civilians were killed last month, double the toll from May, according to an AP tally, reflecting the stiff challenges facing Iraqi security forces following the withdrawal of US combat troops from urban areas this week.

But the numbers are still far lower than previous years, and the bombings by suspected Sunni extremists are not triggering the type of retaliatory attacks from Shi'ite militias that nearly led to civil war in 2006-2007.

Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians from across the ethnic and sectarian divide welcomed the US troop withdrawal from cities as a step towards sovereignty, even though they feared it might trigger more violence.

However, the Iraqi Kurdish representative to Washington voiced fears that President Barack Obama's administration might disengage too quickly from Iraq only to have to intervene again later.

And the UN said that Iraq's plans to reconstruct its economy are being hampered by a legacy of millions of landmines littering its farms, railways and even its prized oilfields. Iraq is peppered with an estimated 25 million landmines, the Environment Ministry says.



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