Monthly death toll in Iraq falls for 3rd straight month

The number of Iraqis killed last month fell to 718, an Associated Press tally showed Saturday, the lowest monthly death toll since just before the 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine provoked a vicious cycle of retaliatory sectarian violence. The figures come as the military says violence has fallen to levels not seen in nearly two years, while acknowledging that Iraqis are still dying in unacceptable numbers. An expert on the effect of conflicts on civilians agreed, saying that while the downward trend was positive, it needed to be kept in perspective. "We've gone from horrific levels of murder to very bad, which is an improvement but not a reason to celebrate," said Richard Garfield, a professor at New York's Columbia University and a manager of health and nutrition for the World Health Organization. "At these so-called low levels, there's a massive number of excess deaths still likely to occur."