The US military predicted that more violence will engulf Iraq in the weeks ahead as the country's splintered politicians and religious groups struggle to form a government.
Thursday's warning followed a week marked by what US Brig. Gen. Donald Alston described as "horrific attacks," amid deteriorating relations between the Iraq's largest Shiite religious group and Sunni Arabs who make up the core of the opposition.
Alston, spokesman for the US-led coalition force, said attacks that have killed at least 500 people since the Dec. 15 elections were a sign insurgents were using the difficult transition to a new government to destabilize the democratic process. In the month since the elections, 54 US forces also have been killed.
Violence dropped after Iraqis began celebrating the four-day Islamic feast of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, on Tuesday. But Alston said it was likely to rise.