A senior Iraqi general says he has survived a bomb attack that killed nine soldiers during an operation against al - Qaeda militants north of Baghdad.Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Al-Zaidi said on Saturday that he and other soldiers from his convoy were on foot when the bomb exploded in an area about 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of the city of Baquba in Diyala province, AFP reported. “I was targeted directly,” Zaidi said, adding that he was about 50 meters away from where the bomb detonated, but was not hurt. “This area is a stronghold for Al-Qaeda,” Zaidi noted. Iraq’s security forces launched a major operation on July 28 in Diyala, Salaheddin and Kirkuk provinces aimed at tracking down militants behind bombings and assassinations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The search operation is still going on. The three provinces have been hit by frequent attacks in recent weeks. Iraq is witnessing its worst bloodshed since 2008 and civilians are a prime target in the violence. The United Nations said on August 1st that more than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in July, making it the country's deadliest month in five years. In a statement issued on July 29, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he was alarmed by the increased violence in Iraq that was "aimed at ripping apart the country's social fabric," adding that the country was ”at another crossroads.” "Its political leaders have a clear responsibility to bring the country back from the brink, and to leave no space to those who seek to exploit the political stalemate through violence and terror," he said. In an interview with Press TV on July 24, an international human rights lawyer said that foreign powers are attempting to fabricate and benefit from Shia-Sunni discord in Iraq and elsewhere, seeking to see the Muslim world weakened in the wake of such rifts. “Who benefits is of course the key issue. It’s really not the people of Iraq, it’s not the Sunnis, it’s not the Shia[s]. It is external powers that want to exploit and create division. Those are the parties that benefit,” said Canada-based attorney Edward Corrigan. “It’s certainly not the people in the region [that benefit from sectarian conflicts]; it’s not Iran; it’s not Iraq; it’s not the people of Syria, which (who) are now witnessing the destruction of their state and where there has been attempts to provoke similar sectarian conflict in Lebanon,” he added.