Iraq officials say 85,000-plus Iraqis killed in 5 years of war

147,195 injured, Human Rights Ministry says

By Rebecca Santana
Associated Press / October 15, 2009

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BAGHDAD - Iraq’s government said at least 85,000 Iraqis were killed from 2004 to 2008, 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 US 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 US military deaths, insurgents, or foreigners, including contractors. And it did not include the first months of the war after the 2003 US-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.

Until the Associated Press report, 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.

Violence in Iraq has declined dramatically since the height of the fighting but almost every Iraqi family has a story of relatives killed, maimed or missing. Ali Khalil, 27, of Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood, said he was not surprised by the government’s figures.

“I expect that the real numbers of the people killed are higher than this,’’ said Khalil, whose father was shot in late 2006. He added that he did not think the country would return to the high numbers of dead in the future because security has improved. “We have already lost dear ones, and we hope that our sadness and losses will cease.’’

Iraq’s death toll continued to climb yesterday when three near simultaneous blasts struck the southern Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing at least six people.

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 which were specifically targeted as the country descended into chaos.

According to the report, 2006 was the deadliest year with 32,622 killed or found dead. The toll for 2004 was 11,313, rising to 15,817 the next year. The second deadliest year in the period covered was 2007 with 19,155 killed or found dead. The toll fell to 6,787 in 2008, the lowest yearly count for the period.

The count also included 15,000 unidentified bodies buried after going unclaimed by families. An additional 10,000 people were also listed as missing, although Human Rights Ministry official Kamil Amin said it was not known whether there was overlap between the missing and unidentified counts.