BAGHDAD, August 9 (Reuters): Almost 2,000 bodies were brought to Baghdad's morgue last month, an official said on Wednesday, recording the highest number since an attack in February on a Shi'ite shrine that sparked a wave of sectarian bloodshed.
Morgue assistant manager, Doctor Abdul Razzaq al-Obaidi, told Reuters about 90 percent of the deaths were due to violence in the capital, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have stepped up their troops levels to combat sectarian bloodshed.
"Most of the cases have gunshot wounds to the head. Some of them were strangled and others were beaten to death with clubs," said Obaidi.
The morgue toll was a jump from 1,595 in June and is the largest number since the aftermath of the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra, blamed by the US and Iraq on al Qaeda.
Iraq's health, interior and defense ministries consistently provide lower figures than those released by the morgue.
Figures from those ministries showed about 1,000 civilians were killed across Iraq in July in "terrorism" attacks in the highest monthly civilian death toll in six months. Some 1,820 civilians were wounded.
A monthly report from those ministries said 79 police were killed and 148 were wounded in July, while 63 Iraqi soldiers were killed and 37 wounded.
The increasing sectarian violence has prompted fears of civil war.
The United States has boosted its troop levels in Baghdad.
About 6,000 additional Iraqi forces and 3,500 U.S. soldiers of the 172nd Striker Brigade combat team are being deployed in the Baghdad area and are expected to start systematically clearing neighborhoods most troubled by sectarian tension.
The first phase of the operation, which began on July 9, killed or captured 411 murderers associated with death squads, the U.S. military said, but it failed to ease bloodshed.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has vowed to confront the armed militias blamed for fanning tensions, but must tread carefully as some of these groups have close ties to parties in the government, including ones in his own ruling Alliance.
Maliki said a consensus was building between religious leaders and prominent tribes to condemn the killing, and he was echoed by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad.
But the daily drumbeat of violence continued, claiming at least eight lives and injuring 25 others around the country.
Five civilians died and 20 were hurt by a rocket attack in Baquba, north of Baghdad, which collapsed a three-storey building near to a mosque, police said. Witnesses feared some people were still trapped in the rubble.
Police said a bomb targeting a U.S. patrol in east Baghdad killed one civilian and injured another, while in Basra an Iraqi army colonel was shot dead on his way to work, the army said.
AP adds: A US Army helicopter crashed in Iraq's western Anbar province, leaving two crew members missing and four injured, the US military said Wednesday, as Iraqi and U.S. reinforcements move into the capital in a bid to stem sectarian violence that threatens civil war.
In Baqouba 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, four people were killed and 16 wounded in a U.S. airstrike late Tuesday, police said. There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials, but a Shiite mosque and nearby houses in the city were heavily damaged in the blast.