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Iraqi Civilian Deaths Jump In February

The site of a car bomb attack in Karbala on February 5
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- The civilian death toll in Iraq jumped to 211 people compared with the previous month, officials said today, a sign of rising violence in the run-up to a March 7 parliamentary election.

Overall violence in Iraq has fallen in the last two years, but a series of blasts in recent months shattered the peace before a national vote, seen as a crucial test as Iraq emerges from years of war, sanctions, and sectarian slaughter.

In January, 135 people died violent deaths.

On February 5, twin car bombs killed at least 40 people and wounded 145 others in Iraq's holy city of Karbala as hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims observed a religious rite.

Sunni Islamist insurgents such as Al-Qaeda and members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Ba'ath party are still capable of staging devastating attacks.

The attacks appear aimed to undermine Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government before the parliamentary election and highlight the shortcomings of the security forces.

At least 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the more than 6 1/2 years since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to Some groups put the toll much higher.