BAGHDAD — Militants killed 136 Iraqis in February, fewer than the previous month, as the country continues to grapple with insurgents just over a year after U.S. troops withdrew, Health Ministry figures showed Saturday.
The country's precarious sectarian and ethnic balance has come under growing strain from the conflict in neighboring Syria, which is whipping up tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq and the wider Middle East.
The figures showed 88 civilians, 22 soldiers and 26 policemen were killed last month. A further 228 people were wounded. In January, the death toll was 177.
Authorities said 33 militants were killed by security forces in February.
The worst day of violence was Feb. 8, when car bombs exploded in Shiite Muslim areas across the country, killing at least 34 people in attacks claimed by al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq.
Sunni militants often target members of the Shiite majority to which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki belongs, in a bid to undermine the government and provoke more intercommunal strife.
Last year, 4,471 civilians died in what rights group Iraq Body Count described as a "low-level war" with insurgents — the first annual climb in the death toll in three years.
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