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Iraq death rate belies US claims of success

By Kim Sengupta  

The death rate in Iraq in the past 12 months has been the second highest in any year since the invasion, according to figures that appear to contradict American claims that the troop “surge” has dramatically reduced the level of violence across the country.

The research comes from Iraq Body Count (IBC), which has extensive experience of working in the country, and concludes that deaths outside Baghdad actually rose until September.

For some 24,000 Iraqi civilians, and their families and friends, 2007 was a year of devastating and irreparable tragedy…

However, the group also concludes that the number of those killed in Baghdad, where the majority of American reinforcements for surge operations were deployed, has fallen significantly during the year.

IBC compiles its data from official sources, including the Pentagon, and found that between 22,586 and 24,159 civilian deaths were documented for 2007, with the vast majority of those killed between January and August.

The most lethal violence took place in Nineva, where the number of deaths rose by 143 per cent. Baghdad on the other hand saw a decline of around 39 per cent after a drastic fall in numbers of deaths in the last three months of the year.

The first eight months of 2007 also saw the highest number of car-bombings in the Iraq. The report claims that last year there were 20 explosive devices that killed more than 50 civilians, compared with 12 bombings in 2006.

The number of civilians killed during operations involving US forces in the past 12 months also rose, from between 544 and 623 in 2006 to between 868 and 1,326 in 2007. The report claims that most of these casualties were linked to air strikes, in which 88 children were reported to have died.

Around 900 US and 47 British troops have also been killed in the past year. General David Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq during the surge, insisted: ” We are focusing our energy on building on what coalition and Iraqi troopers have accomplished in 2007. Success will not, however, be akin to flipping on a light switch.” But John Sloboda, the co-founder of IBC, said the figures “show beyond any doubt that civil security in Iraq remains in a parlous state”.

“For some 24,000 Iraqi civilians, and their families and friends, 2007 was a year of devastating and irreparable tragedy,” he added.

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