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87,215 Iraqis slain since 2005, report says

Farhan Hamza visits his father’s grave, which is next to other relatives at the cemetery in Najaf, south of Baghdad. Iraq’s government has recorded 87,215 of its citizens killed since 2005 in violence ranging from bombings to execution-style slayings.

Associated Press

Farhan Hamza visits his father’s grave, which is next to other relatives at the cemetery in Najaf, south of Baghdad. Iraq’s government has recorded 87,215 of its citizens killed since 2005 in violence ranging from bombings to execution-style slayings.

BAGHDAD — Iraq's government has recorded 87,215 of its citizens killed since 2005 in violence ranging from catastrophic bombings to execution-style slayings, according to government statistics obtained by the Associated Press that break open one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war.

Combined with tallies based on hospital sources and media reports since the beginning of the war and an in-depth review of available evidence by the Associated Press, the figures show that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The number is a minimum count of violent deaths. The official who provided the data to the AP, on condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity, estimated the actual number of deaths at 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who are still missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official records.

The Health Ministry has tallied death certificates since 2005, and late that year the United Nations began using them — along with hospital and morgue figures — to publicly release casualty counts. But by early 2007, when sectarian violence was putting political pressure on the U.S. and Iraqi governments, the Iraqi numbers disappeared.

The data obtained by the AP measure only violent deaths — people killed in attacks such as the shootings, bombings, mortar attacks and beheadings that have ravaged Iraq. It excluded indirect factors such as damage to infrastructure, health care and stress that caused thousands more to die.

Authoritative statistics for 2003 and 2004 do not exist. But Iraq Body Count, a private, British-based group, has tallied civilian deaths from media reports and other sources since the war's start. The AP reviewed the Iraq Body Count analysis and confirmed its conclusions by sifting the data and consulting experts. The AP also interviewed experts involved with previous studies, prominent Iraq analysts and provincial and medical officials to determine that the new tally was credible.

The AP also added its own tabulation of deaths since Feb. 28, the last date in the Health Ministry count.

The three figures add up to more than 110,600 Iraqis who have died in the war.

The numbers show just how traumatic the war has been for Iraq. In a nation of 29 million people, the deaths represent 0.38 percent of the population. Proportionally, that would be like the United States losing 1.2 million people to violence in the four-year period; about 17,000 people are murdered every year in the U.S.

Security has improved since the worst years, but almost every person in Iraq has been touched by the violence.

"We have lost everything," said Badriya Abbas Jabbar, 54. A 2007 truck bombing targeting a market near her Baghdad home killed three granddaughters, a son and a niece.

The death toll in Iraq has been a hotly disputed subject because of the high political stakes in a war opposed by many countries and by a large portion of the American public. Critics on each side accuse the other of manipulating the death numbers to sway opinion.

While the Pentagon maintains meticulous records of the number of American troops killed — at least 4,276 as of Thursday — it does not publicly release comprehensive Iraqi casualty figures. The AP has filed Freedom of Information Act requests since 2005 seeking that data, but has not received it.

The U.S. policy to not fully address civilian deaths has drawn heavy criticism from human rights groups.

"We believe that all warring parties have a duty to keep information on casualties," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch in New York. "It's one of many factors one needs to analyze compliance with international humanitarian law."

87,215 Iraqis slain since 2005, report says 04/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 11:17pm]

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