The forgotten dead of the Iraq war

11:37, 24 March 2008
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Britain: 175; Poland: 23; Ukraine: 18; Bulgaria: 13...

While the number of US troops killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion stands at 4,000, up to three times as many Iraqi soldiers have died -- and the number of civilians killed runs into tens and probably hundreds of thousands, according to AFP.

The icasualties.org web site, based only on published reports, shows that around 8,000 members of the Iraqi security forces have died since the March 2003 invasion. Last year however the Iraqi government put the figure at 12,000.

There is no agreement when it comes to civilian casualties, particularly as many deaths are never reported in the media.

In January, a joint UN World Health Organisation and the Iraqi government study concluded that between 104,000 and 223,000 Iraqis had died violently since the invasion.

As of March 24, the independent Iraq Body Count website, based solely on incidents reported by the media, spoke of close to 90,000 deaths, of whom over a quarter -- 24,000 -- died in 2007.

At the high end of the scale, in September 2007 a British polling institute estimated the total number of civilian deaths at 1.2 million, a figure coherent with an earlier report in The Lancet, a respected British medical review.

As of July 2006, a statistical survey quoted in The Lancet found that 655,000 more civilians had died than would have been the case if there had been no war.

The scars run deeply in Iraqi society.

Um Mohammed, a 49-year-old widow in Baghdad`s western Mansur neighbourhood, whose husband was abducted and shot by gunmen 15 months ago, bitterly blamed the US military for the loss, which has profoundly affected her and her family.

Her two daughters, both in college, are still in deep mourning while her son, in secondary school, is so depressed he failed his exams last year. They have been forced to move in with her husband`s family to survive.

"Why does the world care so much about the 4,000 soldiers killed? No one cares about the Iraqis," said Um Mohammed, a Sunni Arab.

"All the killings in Iraq are because of the Americans. They are the cause of all the bloodshed. I ask Allah to kill all the American soldiers -- to count them all and not leave any one of them," she said.

"The world regards the American soldiers as our saviours but they are murderers."

Ivana Vuco, human rights officer at United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, said last month that tracking civilian deaths in Iraq is a "huge problem".

"Some reports do not even come to us," she said.

Among civilians who have died are those who have been accidentally killed in raids and air strikes by US-led forces while targeting insurgents.

Although there is no accurate count, according to the United Nations 123 civilian deaths alone were reported due to air strikes in the six-month period between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2007.

According to icasualties.org, 308 soldiers from other countries who have formed part of the US-led coalition have been killed in Iraq since the invasion.

Among countries that still have forces in Iraq, the death tolls as of March 24 were: Britain: 175; Poland: 23; Ukraine: 18; Bulgaria: 13; Denmark: eight.

For countries which took part in earlier stages of the occupation, but have now withdrawn their forces, the main losses were Italy 33 and Spain 11.

The figure does not include deaths among the many thousands of mercenaries, which the United States calls private military contractors. Estimates of their death toll, as of last year, ranged from 140 to more than 900.

According to the Journalists Freedom Observatory (JFO), which monitors violence against the media, 233 Iraqi and foreign journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since 2003.

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