Iraq death toll surges to 10-month high

At least 1,466 people were killed in Iraq in June, in what amounted to the deadliest month in the country since last September, new UN figures have revealed.

The monthly toll included the deaths of approximately 800 members of the Iraqi security forces and militiamen fighting against Isis for the Baghdad government. This figure was more than double the 366 killed in May.

Last month's deaths represented a 40% increase on the month prior as battles with the radical Islamist terror group continuing to rage across the country, particularly in western Iraq where Isis has captured the strategic city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province situated just 105km (65 miles) from Baghdad.

"The terrorists of the so-called Isil (another term for Isis) and sectarian extremists are largely responsible for this violence which has affected all aspects of life in Iraq," UN envoy Jan Kubis told Associated Press. He added that Iraq's leaders must "come together and find a peaceful solution to the existential problems that are facing Iraq and its people".

The total deaths for June were the highest since September when 1,420 Iraqi nationals were killed in conflict, the second highest death toll since the US-led coalition against Isis began. In May, 1,031 people were killed in Iraq, which included 665 civilian casualties.

The UN warned that June's death toll only represented the "absolute minimum" numbers of deaths as it could not verify counts from conflict zones or the deaths of those who may have fled their homes and later succumbed to injuries sustained in conflict.

Sajad Jiyad, Iraq expert and research director at the independent consultancy Integrity, speaking from Baghdad, said that the higher death toll for June could mean that Isis is stepping up their attacks in urban areas as they come under pressure from Iraqi military operations.

"At the beginning of June there were quite a few suicide attacks in urban areas," he says. "I think it shows that Isis is desperate, using many suicide bombers in urban areas to try to divert and stretch security forces."

"I think we also had some effects from military operations and the increasing number of IDPs (internally displaced persons) coming into Baghdad and elsewhere," he adds. "I think that had an effect on numbers. The start of the month was definitely troubling. There have been some smaller incidents as well."

Earlier this week, Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi fired the country's most senior military officer, chief-of-staff General Babaker Zebari, following the country's lacklustre performance in battling the terror group, with army units deserting their positions in the fall of both Mosul and Ramadi.

Isis' march across Iraq, capturing these key towns and cities in Sunni-majority areas, has seen more than three million people displaced, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Despite a US-led coalition campaign against the terror group, which was initiated last August, combined with the might of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq, and a coalition force of Iraqi government soldiers and Sunni and Shia militiamen, Isis has managed to hold onto large swathes of territory in the country.

Isis' capture of Ramadi in May showed that, despite the loss of Sunni-majority city of Tikrit to Iraqi forces in March, the terror group still retains the force to defeat Iraq's security forces on the battlefield. A joint spring offensive between Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen and US-led coalition aircraft to retake Mosul has been almost certainly delayed until 2016.