Some observers believe that more than 100,000 people have died in violence in Iraq, which began after the US overthrew Saddam Hussein's mainly Sunni government in 2003.

 

The increasing violence has led the mainly Shia Iraqi government to propose tough measures to counter armed groups based in Iraq's Sunni provinces.

 

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister has said American troops should be confined to bases to allow the army to crush Sunni fighters.

 

He said that his army could stop violence within six months if left alone to do the work.

 

US commanders have previously forced al-Maliki's government to disband army units accused by the Sunnis of operating as death squads.

 

Rising toll

 

Elsewhere in Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded in front of the home of a man who worked in an office associated with the senior clerical figure in Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

 

The blast killed two of the official's children and seriously wounded a third, according to Sistani's office.

 

The security situation remains serious in Iraq
Police and Sistani's office said the bomb had been buried in sand that construction workers delivered to the house and they did not believe that the man was the intended target.

 

In Baghdad at least nine people were killed and 23 were injured by roadside bombs, according to police reports.

 

A further 35 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a recruiting office for Iraqi police. 

 

About 1,600 bodies were taken to Baghdad's morgue last month, an official said.

 

The toll is the highest since July, when the total hit 1,815, and was up 10 per cent from 1,450 in September.