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Iraq Beset By Soaring Civilian Death Toll

A corpse lies on the ground as an Iraqi army soldier patrols the ground of the battlefield 30 January 2007 two days after a raging battle pitted Iraqi and US troops against a group of Shiite fighters in the town of Zarqa north of the holy city of Najaf. Iraqi government said that more than 500 Shiite fighters calling themselves as "Soldiers of Heaven" were arrested after the battle that also left nearly 300 militants dead of the fighters. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jan 30, 2007
How many civilians have died or are dying in Iraq? No one knows for sure. But the figure is definitely in the scores of thousands -- and the rate and scale of killings appears to be rapidly accelerating. The Web site iraqbodycount.org as of Monday, Jan. 29, said that a minimum of 55,136 civilians had been killed by military intervention in Iraq. It gave its estimated maximum figure as 60,821.

The Web site has become widely respected for the rigor and care of its verification process on fatalities and therefore its minimum estimated figure of more than 55,000 civilian deaths over the past nearly four years appears to be a sound base line. But Iraq Body Count cautions that the real figure is probably far higher

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq reported on Jan. 16 that through 2006 alone, 34,452 Iraqi civilians were killed by violence in their country. U.N. human rights envoy Gianni Magazzeni said the figures were compiled from data collected by the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospital, morgues and other agencies.

When these figures were released, we noted that they appeared to confirm the projection we made in UPI's Iraq Benchmarks column more than nine months ago that civilian casualties in Iraq for 2006 looked to be around 36,000 dead.

Iraq Body Count also noted that almost two-thirds of the fatalities it had confirmed came in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, even though, with 6 million people, it has less than a quarter of the population of the California-sized nation of 28 million.

Iraq Body Count said that from the start of hostilities in Iraq in March 2003 up to the end of 2006 it had documented 34,442 civilian deaths in Baghdad compared to only 17,745 fatalities for the rest of the country. Thus disparity explains why the U.S. military presence in Iraq is being increasingly concentrated in Baghdad.

As UPI's Laura Heaton reported Monday, once the additional 7,000 troops are sent to Baghdad by the end of February, the U.S. troop presence there will stand at around 85,000. However, this still falls far short of the 120,000 U.S. troops that the U.S,. Army's Counter-Insurgency manual, which was co-authored by Lt. Gen. Dave Petraeus, the incoming American ground forces commander in Iraq, says is required to provide security for a population of that size.

The U.N. Assistance Mission put the civilian death toll as rising to record levels across Iraq in the closing months of 2006 with more than 3,700 people dying in October alone.

However, according to the Iraq Index Project of the Brooking Institution, a Washington think tank, the number of civilians being killed because of the violence hit a peak in October when 3,709 died, but the numbers killed per month then steadily declined over the next two months. In November, 3,462 people died from the war across Iraq and in December the figure was 2,914. These figures, the Iraq Index Project said, came from the U.N. Assistance Mission

The Iraq Index Project concluded on the basis of combining and comparing Iraq Body Count and U.N. figures, that from May 2003 -- in other words, from after the victorious conclusion of the military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein and conquer Iraq -- to the end of Oct. 2006, 70,100 civilians have been killed by violence in Iraq. If the figures of around 3,000 per month killed since then still apply, that death toll would now be close to or even over 80,000 dead.

The soaring figures of casualties in Iraq this month, especially over the past two weeks, suggest that even these figures may be too conservative.According to the Iraq Index Project figures, apart from minor fluctuations, the number of Iraqis killed in multiple Fatality bombings, or MFB attacks, has been rising steadily per month since August. The number of such attacks rose from 52 in August to 69 in December. As of Jan. 24 this year, 10,026 Iraqis had been killed in MFB attacks and 20,459 wounded. These figures only refer to bomb attacks in which three or more people were killed, so the number of people killed in all bomb or improvised explosive device attacks is clearly significantly higher.

The last word on these awful figures may be left to Lily Hamourtziadou, a researcher on the Iraq Body Count team who is responsible for the IBC's daily monitoring media coverage of the Iraq violence. In her weekly column published on Jan, 28 she noted that Tuesday, Jan. 23, was "the most 'peaceful' of the week in Iraq. On that day, Hamourtziadou noted, "only around 60 people" were killed. The confirmed dead, she noted, included six policemen, three butchers, two teachers, a university professor, 29 other adults and two children.

If that toll of 60 a day is maintained for a full year, 21,900 civilians will die in 2007 in Iraq. However, as Hamourtziadou noted, on several days of the same week more than twice as many people were documented killed in Iraq. Therefore as many as 36,000 to 40,000 people could die there in 2007 even if the violence does not get significantly worse.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
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Time Is Short For Iraq Turnaround
Washington (AFP) Jan 30, 2007
US forces are running up against the clock in implementing a badly-needed new strategy in Iraq, the admiral who is set to take over the command of US forces in the Middle East said Tuesday. "I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around but time is short," Admiral William Fallon told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "There are no guarantees but you can depend on me for my best effort."







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