Iraq conflict claims 34 civilian lives each day as 'anarchy' beckons

Almost 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed during the two years of war and insurgency that began with the US-led invasion in March 2003. More than a third have died as a result of action by allied forces.

The first detailed and authoritative study of non-combatant casualties claims that an average of 34 Iraqi civilians have died each day since the conflict began, a total of 24,865 deaths.

The authors of the report, published yesterday by a group called Iraq Body Count, said the figures showed the country was descending into "anarchy" under the US occupation and called upon Britain and America to establish urgently a method of officially recording civilian casualties - something they have so far refused to do.

Professor John Sloboda, one of the report's authors, said: "The failure of Western governments to recognise the lack of respect in not counting the civilian casualties must be a contributing factor to Muslim disaffection and anger.''

The report shows the anti- occupation or insurgency forces were solely responsible for the deaths of only 9 per cent, or 2,353 of the civilian total, despite the almost daily suicide bombings, that have accounted for more than 200 deaths this month alone.

American forces were responsible for 98.5 per cent of the 9,270 civilians assessed to have been killed by allied forces, or 37 per cent of the total who have died. Out of the remaining 1.5 per cent of the total killed by allied forces, British soldiers were responsible for the highest total, with 86 people.

The number of deaths suffered by military forces are small - there have been 93 British service personnel killed and 1,769 Americans. No figure has been put on Iraqi military casualties.

Indicating the level to which Iraq has become a far more lawless environment since Saddam Hussein was deposed, 8,935 of the killings, or 35.9 per cent, were of people involved in - or targeted by - conventional criminal activity although the report says the boundaries between criminal killings and those attributed to the insurgency were often blurred.

A Dossier of Civilian Casualties, 2003-2005 was compiled by Iraq Body Count (IBC) and Oxford Research Group, an alliance of academics and peace campaigners. The analysis is based on media reports as well as official figures from the Iraqi ministry of health and mortuaries.

The only previous attempt to assess the level of civilian casualties was published in The Lancet medical journal last October and put the figure at 100,000, based on a survey of Iraqi households. Although it was seized upon by opponents of the war as justifying their worst fears, its methodology was subsequently criticised.

The IBC report says the highest concentration of civilian deaths was during the so-called "invasion phase" of the conflict in March and April 2003, when 30 per cent of the civilian deaths occurred. In the two years since the end of the "combat" phase, the number of civilians killed was almost twice as high in year two (11,351) as in year one (6,215).

Detailed examination of the figures show that women and children accounted for almost 20 per cent of all civilian deaths, with one in every 200 being a child under the age of two. Almost half of all deaths occurred in Baghdad.

Most of the civilian deaths (53 per cent) involved explosive devices, most of which came from air strikes during the early stage of the conflict and which caused a disproportionately high level of casualties among children. The report says it shows that, while such weapons are an advantage to the military, they have a very high potential to kill indiscriminately.

Out of the deaths caused by insurgents, 4.3 per cent of the total were killed by suicide bombers. Police accounted for the largest single occupational category among the dead, with 977 reported deaths.

Speaking at the launch of the report in London, Professor Sloboda added: "The ever-mounting Iraqi death toll is the forgotten cost of the decision to go to war in Iraq. It remains a matter of the gravest concern that, nearly two and a half years on, neither the US nor the UK governments have begun to systematically measure the impact of their actions in terms of human lives destroyed."

Another of the report's authors, Toby Dodge, a Middle East expert and lecturer in politics at Queen Mary, University of London, said: "Iraq is descending into anarchy and the US presence is not helping. It has shown its incapacity to create a peaceful state. Never again will intervening states so greatly underestimate what is involved in invading and rebuilding a country.''

Victims' stories

YASSER SALIHEE

The Iraqi journalist, a former doctor who was covering the conflict for Knight Ridder news agency, was shot dead by a US sniper as he drove to get petrol for his car to take his family to the swimming pool on 24 June. It is not known why he was killed. The US military is investigating his death.

SAYED ABDUL MAJID AL-KHOEI

The leading Shia cleric, who had liberal political views, was murdered in April 2003 by a mob at the shrine at Najaf, days after he returned from exile in the UK. His killers were believed to be associated with the rival Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. His father, Ayatollah Abul-Qassim al-Khoei, was the Shia leader at the time of the 1991 Shia uprising against Saddam and died while under house arrest.

MOHAMMED ALI NSAEF AL-SHIMERI

The businessman, a father of three children, was living in Baghdad. One day in 2004 he was driving back to his office in west Baghdad after lunch at home. Car thieves stopped him. One killed him to prevent him giving evidence.

LAMIA ABED KHADOURI AL-SAKRI

The 50-year-old member of the party of outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi, was shot nine times in the head and chest by a man armed with a pistol as she answered the door of her brother's house on 27 April, becoming the first member of parliament to be killed. Having lived in exile in London for 10 years, she returned to Baghdad after the fall of Saddam and had responded to a call for women to enter politics despite death threats from insurgents.

REVEALED: IRAQ'S CIVILIAN DEATH TOLL

24,865 civilians, mostly Iraqis, were reported killed in Iraq between 20 March 2003 and 19 March 2005 - almost 0.1% of the population * Nearly 10% of the dead were under 18 - equivalent to more than 2,400 children and teenagers * Nearly 10% of the adult dead were female - equivalent to 2,155 women * Allied forces were the sole killers of 9,270 of the victims (of whom 86 were killed by the British); anti-occupation forces were the sole killers of 2,353 of the victims; criminals killed 8,935 * 70% of these deaths occurred after President Bush declared that major combat operations were over on 1 May 2003 * The victims include at least 977 policemen, 100 transport workers, 47 health workers and 39 students * A further 42,500 civilians were reported wounded, of whom 6% - about 2,550 - were children and babies

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