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Iraq Transition

Pentagon: Cold-blooded carnage soaring in Iraq

Story Highlights

• Iraq death squads killing hundreds each month, U.S. military reports
• Iraqi casualties up 51 percent in June-August; attacks up 15 percent
• Current violence not civil war, officials conclude
• Report compiled by Pentagon each quarter to submit to Congress
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Death squads and terrorists have ramped up attacks on civilians in Iraq, killing more than 1,600 people in cold-blooded "execution-style" slayings in July alone, a Pentagon report said Friday.

Increasing violence is affecting "all other measures of stability, reconstruction and transition," according to the report, which examined the situation in June, July and August.

But the report concluded the "current violence is not a civil war, and movement toward civil war can be prevented." (Watch a report of good news and grim statistics -- 1:21)

"Sectarian tensions increased over the past quarter manifested in an increasing number of execution-style killings, kidnappings and attacks on civilians," said the report which is required by Congress.

The number of executions reached a new high in July, the Pentagon said, blaming the killings on al Qaeda in Iraq and death squads who are accused of targeting members of various communities to increase sectarian tension. (Watch families brave the threat of death squads to get medical treatment -- 2:36)

"The Baghdad coroner's office reported 1,600 bodies arrived in June and more than 1,800 in July, 90 percent of which were assessed to be the result of executions."

The report said the quarter had seen a 51 percent increase in Iraqi casualties and a 15 percent increase in the number of attacks.

The report's release came after a wave of apparent sectarian violence Thursday claimed at least 46 lives across the Iraqi capital. (Watch Iraqis meander amid the aftermath of rocket and mortar attacks -- 5:15)

Neighborhoods targeted

Forty-four people died and at least 255 others were wounded in five attacks using Katyusha rockets in mostly Shiite neighborhoods of southeastern and northern Baghdad, the Iraqi Health Ministry said.

The blasts destroyed six residential buildings in five neighborhoods and are under investigation, said an Iraqi Interior Ministry official.

A car bomb also killed two people and wounded 13 near a gas station in the southeastern Baghdad neighborhood of Mashtal, police said.

Thursday's violence followed a string of insurgent bombings Wednesday in Baghdad and the nearby provinces of Diyala and Babil, killing at least 47 people and wounding more than 100 others, emergency officials said.

The attacks hit as Iraqi and U.S. security forces engage in an extensive security crackdown in the capital.

Amid flagging support domestically for the war in the United States, President Bush launched a new series of domestic speeches Thursday, again asserting that the battle for Iraq is the "central front in our fight against terrorism." (Watch as Bush announces a new pivotal moment in the war on terror -- 2:04)

Bush told an audience at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, that the effort was akin to World War II and the Cold War and warned that failure to persevere will lead terrorists to take their battle to U.S. shores. (Full story)

Also on Thursday, Congressional Democrats sharpened their attacks on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with one senator proposing a resolution that would call on President Bush to sack the outspoken Pentagon chief.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said that she wants to attach the measure to the defense appropriation bill coming to the Senate floor after lawmakers' August recess. (Full story)

Many Democrats have disputed Bush's view that the Iraq war is essential to the fight against terrorism. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called for "beginning the redeployment of troops from Iraq, refocusing our efforts on the war on terror and protecting Americans from terrorism here at home."

Other developments

  • U.S. troops transferred security responsibilities Friday in most of the key northern province of Tameem to two Iraqi army battalions. Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division made the transfer during a ceremony at an Iraqi military base outside Kirkuk. That oil-rich city and Hawija will remain under U.S.-led coalition control.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday said Iraqi security forces soon will assume leadership responsibility in the southern province of Thiqar. Iraqis recently took control of security in Muthanna province from the British.
  • A U.S. Marine and soldier died Wednesday "due to enemy action" during operations in Anbar province, west of Baghdad. Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, there have been 2,633 U.S. military fatalities. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.
  • CNN's Jamie McIntyre, Nic Robertson and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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    Coffins are lined up outside the morgue of a Baquba hospital, where relatives of attack victims wait to claim their bodies.

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