The number of Iraqis who have fled their homes under threat of sectarian violence has more than doubled since the start of the year, despite the increase in American troops that began in February, a humanitarian aid organization said Saturday.

The number of displaced Iraqis has shot upward from 447,337 on Jan. 1 to 1.14 million on July 31, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization.

Though the addition of some 30,000 U.S. troops since February has brought down violence in Baghdad, it presence of the extra troops also led to increased clashes with militants.

“Does this surge have anything to do with it? We don’t know,” said Saeed Haqi, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent — the local partner organization of the International Committee of the Red Cross. “But they’re leaving because of the security situation in general.”

In addition to those who have fled their homes but have stayed within the country, some 2 million Iraqis have fled, with many now living as refugees in neighboring Syria and Jordan.

In its midyear assessment last month, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration also reported a spike in internally displaced people, saying the trend started with the February 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, which sparked fierce sectarian fighting. (MORE)


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