The number of Iraqi civilians killed in violence in Iraq this year fell to its lowest level since the 2003 US-led invasion, but the decline is slowing as low-level conflict takes root, a study showed yesterday.
Human rights group Iraq Body Count (IBC) put this year’s civilian death toll in Iraq at 3,976 up to Thursday last week, compared with 4,680 last year. IBC said that the annual decline in the number of violent deaths had slowed to 15 percent, compared with declines of 50 percent and 63 percent in the previous two years.
“Taken as a whole and seen in the context of immediately preceding years, the 2010 data suggest a persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come,” IBC said in its yearly study.
The all-out sectarian slaughter between once dominant Sunnis and majority Shiites has eased in Iraq but Sunni Islamist insurgents, groups linked to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party and armed Shiite militia, stage daily attacks.
“The within-year trend for 2010 is somewhat more hopeful: the US ‘end of combat mission’ on 31 Aug 2010 was followed by an immediate halving in the number of civilian deaths between August and September, and lowered levels have continued into the winter months,” IBC said.
IBC said the northern city of Mosul and Baghdad continued to be Iraq’s two most violent cities.
The study’s numbers are higher than those provided by the Iraqi government.
While this month’s figures are not available yet, the number of violent civilian deaths from January through last month was 2,416, according to monthly Iraqi Ministry of Health data.
About 4,748 foreign soldiers have also been killed in combat in Iraq since the war began, according to www.icasualties.org, which tracks casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The annual foreign military toll in Iraq has fallen sharply, too, especially as Iraqi forces have taken the lead on security.
IBC said the data would be updated on its website to capture the full year. The Web site can be viewed at: www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/numbers/2010/