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Bloody October: 30 Iraqi civilians killed every day in deadliest month since 2008

Iraqi policemen search a car at a checkpoint in central Baghdad on Thursday.
Iraqi policemen search a car at a checkpoint in central Baghdad on Thursday.Reuters

October was the deadliest month in Iraq in more than five years, with almost 1,000 people killed and hundreds more wounded, the United Nations said Friday.

The majority of the 979 deaths were civilians, rather than policemen or soldiers, meaning on average more than 30 non-enforcement personnel died in violent circumstances every day.

The figures, released by the UN Mission to help Iraq (UNAMI), said that 158 civilian police and 127 members of the security force were killed -- making October the bloodiest month since April 2008.

In addition, 1,793  people were wounded, including 218 civilian police and 109 security force members.

Nikolay Mladenov, UN special envoy to Iraq, said in a statement that he urged the Iraqi government to take action to "thwart attempts by terrorists to destroy the social fabric of Iraqi society."

He condemned what he called "senseless acts of violence [that] continue targeting Iraqis without discrimination every day, every week, every month."

This year is the country’s most violent since 2008, with some 7,000 people estimated dead, according to the database project Iraq Body Count (IBC).

The violence has left many people afraid to leave their homes.

In a series of interviews in Baghdad last week, 40-year-old Ashraf Jabbar Mirza told NBC News: "The explosions and assassinations happen all the time and we are afraid to even go out in public spaces such as crowded markets for fear of an explosion or harm. Now there is so much more violence."

Although no one claims responsibility for many of the bombings, shootings, and kidnappings, they are often blamed on Sunni extremists who feel disenfranchised and excluded from the Shiite-led administration.

UNAMI released Friday's figures just hours before Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Thursday al-Maliki said he was going to ask Obama for more assistance in quelling the sectarian violence, which has ravaged the country ever since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

This year has seen a spike in violence not experienced since the post-invasion years when the country verged on sectarian civil war.

Almost 30,000 people were killed in 2006 and around 25,000 the next year, according to IBC.

This figure began to drop as both Shiites and Sunnis worked together to tackle extremism, falling to a post-invasion low of 4,147 in 2011.

IBC announced last month that this year’s death toll had passed the 7,000 mark, with a particularly bloody day on October 20 when 80 people were killed in bombings and shootings across the country.

Experts say the increase in violence has been triggered by a failure of Iraq’s religious groups to come to a political compromise. These sectarian tensions have also been fanned by the crisis in Syria.

Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow of London-based think tank Chatham House’s Middle East program, told NBC News: “"The two are neighboring countries and very closely linked.

"Most people in Iraq have got families in both countries, and Iraqis from all sides of the sectarian divide have been fighting for both sides of the conflict: [Syrian President Bashar] Assad [an Alawite, which is a branch of Shiite Muslim] and his Sunni opposition. This is really adding to the sectarian tensions in Iraq."

Reuters contributed to this report.