Official figures released on Saturday said violence in Iraq fell last month compared to December, disputing an AFP tally which showed it was the country’s deadliest month since September.
The contrasting figures coincide with high tensions in Iraq, with a political crisis pitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki against his erstwhile government partners as he grapples with weeks of rallies calling for his ouster.
Figures compiled by Iraq’s ministries of health, interior and defence said a total of 177 people were killed in January — 120 civilians, 35 policemen and 22 soldiers. A further 258 were wounded.
The data also said 33 insurgents were killed and 72 others arrested.
A tally compiled by AFP based on reports from security and medical officials nationwide, however, put the toll at 246 dead.
According to AFP figures, most of the victims last month were killed in two separate strings of violence — 88 people were killed in the January 15-17 period, and 70 others during January 22-23.
Al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for much of the violence, including a suicide bombing that killed a Sunni MP and a series of attacks in mid-January.
The militant group often carries out deadly attacks in order to destabilise the government and push Iraq back towards the sectarian war that blighted it from 2005 to 2008.
Violence is down markedly from its peak in 2006 and 2007 although attacks remain common.