Some 613 people have been killed over religious beliefs in the past three months in Iraq, the UN says. Fighting between Sunnis and Shiites is one problem, while women and religious minorities have also fared badly.
A total of 613 civilians were killed as a result of terrorist attacks and communal violence in Iraq in the first three months of 2012, the UN reported on Tuesday.
Rights violations and heightened communal tensions, partly caused by an element of political instability, had resulted in random attacks on civilians, the UN special envoy for Iraq, Martin Kobler, told the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday.
"Terrorist attacks have continued to target pilgrims and resulted in the killing and wounding of scores of defenseless people practicing their religion," said Kobler.
In the second briefing by Kobler since he assumed his post six months ago, the special envoy said that, as well as the fatalities, some 1,835 people had been injured in "communal attacks" in the period from January up to the end of March this year.
Kobler also highlighted the plight of women in the country of some 32 million. "Iraqi women continue to face widespread instances of gender-based violence, including domestic violence and so-called honor killings," he said.
The population is about 60 percent Shia according to official sources, although this is disputed by Sunnis. The Shiites dominate the government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sunnis enjoyed a prolonged period of dominance under the regime of former president Saddam Hussein and have grown increasingly restive under the new Shiite-led administration.
Armed groups from both sides have reportedly clashed in recent months, with violence also reported against minorities such as Christians, Shabaks, and Sabeans.
rc/slk (AP, dpa IPS)