Thursday, July 21, 2005

Iraq war takes heavy toll on civilians Survey says 25,000 killed since start of conflict; U.S. disputes details

Iraq war takes heavy toll on civilians Survey says 25,000 killed since start of conflict; U.S. disputes details

Updated: 11:13 a.m. ET July 19, 2005
BAGHDAD - U.S.-led forces, insurgents and criminal gangs have killed nearly 25,000 civilians, police, and army recruits since the war began in March 2003, according to a survey by Iraq Body Count, a U.S.-British non-government group.

Nearly half the deaths in the two years surveyed to March 2005 were in Baghdad, where a fifth of Iraq's 25 million people live, according to media reports monitored by the group.
Of the total, nearly 37 percent were killed by U.S.-led forces, it said.
The U.S. military disputed the findings and said it did not target civilians.
"We do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties in all of our operations," said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad.

"Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom until now, we have categorically not targeted civilians. We take great care in all operations to ensure we go after the intended targets."
Iraq Body Count said its findings provided "a unique insight into the human consequences of the U.S.-led invasion."

"Leaders who commit troops to wars of intervention have diminishingly few excuses for failing to seriously weigh the human costs," it said in a 28-page dossier.
The numbers included civilians, army and police recruits,and serving police. They do not include serving Iraqi military or combatant deaths, for which there are "no reliable accounts... either official or unofficial."

The group took its data, including figures showing that more than 42,000 civilians were wounded in the same period, from an analysis of more than 10,000 press and media reports.
Survey confirms U.N. findingsThe death toll almost mirrors a U.N.-funded survey conducted last year, which found some 24,000 conflict-related deaths since the U.S.-led invasion.
Another survey, published in Britain's Lancet medical journal last October, found nearly 100,000 deaths in the 18 months after the invasion, more than half due to violence. These findings were contested by U.S. and British officials.

Since the media in Iraq is forced to focus on Baghdad for security reasons, it is likely that Iraq Body Count's death toll throughout the country is under-estimated.
The survey found that almost a third of civilian deaths occurred during the invasion itself, from March 20 to May 1, 2003, when U.S.-led forces carried out their "shock and awe" bombing campaign on Baghdad.

In the first year after the invasion, around 6,000 civilians were killed, a number that nearly doubled in the second year, indicating a general increase in violence. The group said deaths caused by insurgents and criminals had risen steadily.

U.S. forces primarily responsibleU.S.-led forces were found to be chiefly responsible for deaths, and criminals a close second at 36 percent, while insurgents accounted for a surprisingly small 9.5 percent.

That would not appear to tally with the situation on the ground, where insurgent violence is rife. It may reflect media sourcing, since it is often not clear who carried out a specific attack. According to Iraq Body Count, "unknown agents" were responsible for 11 percent of deaths.

"I don't know how they are doing their methodology and can't talk to how they calculate their numbers," said the U.S. Army's Boylan, disputing the findings on who is responsible for deaths.
The survey would also appear not to capture the full extent of the devastation caused by insurgent car bombings. Over the past 18 months, hundreds of suicide car bombs have exploded around the country, killing well over 2,000 people.


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