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Insurgents Target Iraqis Over US Troops

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by Martin Sieff, UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 03, 2006
The rate of U.S. military fatalities in Iraq fell dramatically over the past week, but the numbers of U.S. troops wounded, Iraqi troops killed and Iraqi civilians killed in terror bombings continued at their previous levels or marginally higher.

The serious injuries suffered by new ABC network anchorman Bob Woodruff and his cameraman Doug Vogt Sunday confirmed a grim trend we have been tracking for more than half a year in this column: The failure of U.S. coalition and allied Iraqi security forces to be able to come up with an effective counter-tactic to neutralize the effectiveness of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

According to the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, IEDs have been responsible for more than 40 percent of all U.S. deaths in Iraq, including those from non-hostile causes, for every month since May 2005, except for January 2006, when the percentage of fatalities caused by them dropped to a still high 38.7 percent.

In all, IEDs have been responsible for the deaths of 691 U.S. soldiers, or 30.1 percent of all fatalities in Iraq including non-combat ones from the start of military operations in march 2003 through Feb. 1, the Iraq Index Project said.

The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq through Friday, Feb. 3 since the start of U.S. operations to topple Saddam Hussein on March 19, 2003, was 2,248, according to official figures issued by the Department of Defense, a rise of only three in five days, or an average of 0.6 fatalities a day.

This was a vast improvement on the 33 U.S. soldiers killed in only seven days from Jan. 11 through Jan. 17, an average of 4.7 soldiers killed per day and on the figure of 28 in the Jan. 4-10 period when the average death rate was 4 U.S. soldiers killed per day.

However, the rate at which U.S. soldiers were being injured in Iraq remained high. In the five days from Monday, Jan. 30 through Friday, Feb. 3, 58 U.S. soldiers were injured, according to the DOD figures, an average rate of 11.6 per day. This was more than 50 percent higher than the rate of 7.4 U.S. soldiers injured per day during the Jan. 11-17 period. And it came close to the very high figure of 91 U.S. soldiers wounded during the Jan. 4-10 period at an average rate of 13 per day.

The number of U.S. troops wounded in action from the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003, through Feb. 3, was 16,606, according to the Department of Defense figures.

Some 7,683 of those troops were wounded so seriously that they were listed as "WIA Not RTD" in the DOD figures. In other words: Wounded in Action Not Returned to Duty, an increase of 24 such casualties in five days at an average rate of 4.8 per day. This was almost 50 percent higher than the 17 such casualties in seven days in the Jan. 11-17 period, at an average rate of less than 2.5 per day. In all an estimated 2,000 of the U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq, or one in eight of them, have suffered brain damage, loss of limbs or been crippled for life by their injuries.

Bad as these figures were, they were still better than the spike in insurgent attacks inflicting casualties from Dec. 27 through Jan. 3, when 174 U.S. soldiers were injured in Iraq, an average of just below 22 per day.

And according to the official U.S. figures, the number of U.S. troops wounded in action per month has been falling from 618 in October, through 466 in November and 408 in December to 309 in January.

Senior U.S. military officers in Iraq said this week that the insurgents were switching their attacks to target Iraq victims, a tactic we have reported and monitored in this Iraq Benchmarks column over the past month.

According to the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, 194 Iraqi police and troops were killed by the insurgents in January, a slight rise from the 193 killed in December and up from the 176 killed in November. But this figure was still well below the figures per month from March 2005 through October 2005.

Some 89 Iraqi police and troops were killed in the 16 days from Jan. 17 though Feb. 1, an average of just over 8.5 per day, according to the Iraq Index Project. That was a significant increase from average rate of 7.75 per day killed during the eight-day period from Jan. 9 through Jan. 16. And it was more than double the rate of the Jan. 3 through Jan. 8 six-day period when 25 Iraqi police and troops were killed, an average of 4.17 per day.

As we noted in our Jan. 18 column, this suggested a return to the high rates of attrition during the seven-day period from Dec. 27 through Jan. 2 when 65 Iraqi police and troops killed, an average of just below 9.3 per day. The total number of Iraqi police and military killed from June 1, 2003, to Feb. 1, 2005, was 4,068, according to the Iraq Index Project figures.

The longer-term monthly trends on Iraqi security forces killed also showed a discouraging rise: From July through November, the number of Iraqi security forces killed per month steadily diminished. But starting in December, that crucial figure has been steadily rising again.

There were 19 multiple fatality bombings in the 16 days from Jan. 17 through Feb. 1, an average of more than one a day. This was more than four times the rate of only MFBs from Jan., 9 through Jan. 16.

As we had projected in our Jan. 18 column, the number of MFBs record for the month of January was precisely 30, a rise of more than 30 percent compared with the 21 such attacks recorded in December, though still far below the record rates of 46, 39 and 41 MFB attacks in October, November, and December.

Through the month of January, 305 people were killed in these attacks and another 397 wounded. These figures were about twice as bad as those for the entire month of December. when MFB attacks killed 155 people and wounded 174.

According to the Iraq Index Project figures up to Jan. 8, 5,360 people have been killed in MFB attacks since the start of the insurgency and another 10,611 wounded. However, MFB statistics do not include killed and injured in bombings where less than three people were killed.

The cumulative impact of all these figures is that the conclusion we drew in our Jan. 18 analysis remains unchanged: The Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq has not so far shown signs of dramatically metastasizing in recent weeks, but it is back to its old formidable levels following a lull for the Iraqi parliamentary elections in December and it has remained remarkably impervious to both the broad political strategies and the tactical military initiatives that U.S. political leaders and military commanders have sought to apply against it.

Source: United Press International

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