BAGHDAD — Iraq's government said at least 85,000 Iraqis were killed in almost five years, officially answering one of the biggest questions of the conflict — how many perished in the sectarian violence that nearly led to a civil war.
What remains unanswered by the government is how many died in the 2003 U.S. invasion and in the months of chaos that followed it.
A report by the Human Rights Ministry said 85,694 people were killed from the beginning of 2004 to Oct. 31, 2008, and 147,195 were wounded. The figures included Iraqi civilians, military and police but did not cover U.S. military deaths, insurgents, or foreigners, including contractors. And it did not include the first months of the war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The Associated Press reported similar figures in April based on government statistics obtained by the AP showing that the government had recorded 87,215 Iraqi deaths from 2005 to February 2009. The toll included violence ranging from catastrophic bombings to execution-style slayings.
The government's toll of Iraqi deaths had been one of the war's most closely guarded secrets. Both supporters and opponents of the conflict have accused the other of manipulating the toll to sway public opinion.
The 85,694 represents about 0.3 percent of Iraq's estimated 29 million population. In a sign of how significant the numbers are, that would be akin to the United States losing about 900,000 people over a similar period.
According to the ministry's report, the dead included 1,279 children and 2,334 women. At least 263 university professors, 21 judges, 95 lawyers and 269 journalists were killed — professions that were specifically targeted as the country descended into chaos.
Emmanuel d'Harcourt from the New York-based International Rescue Committee, who has participated in mortality surveys in such places as Sudan and Sierra Leone, said the figures are undoubtedly low and that considering the challenges associated with counting those killed in the Iraq conflict, a true figure might never be reached.
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