The 9th year of the conflict in Iraq marks the formal withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. As well as examining recent trends, this page provides an overview of the entire conflict, including of civilian deaths in which US-led coalition forces were directly involved.
The interactive graph allows readers to perform their own timeline analyses on parameters including weapons, aggressors, and incident size.
We always strive to use terms like "improved" or "unchanging" (for trends) with the proper caution that applies to statistics that describe lives lost to armed violence. For people thus affected, there is no sense in which those adjectives could apply to 2011.
This page was last updated on 21 May 2013 and includes data to 30 December 2011.
Iraqi deaths from violence 2003–2011
Analysis and overview from Iraq Body Count (IBC)
First published 2 Jan 2012
Iraq Body Count (IBC) recorded 4,147 civilian deaths from violence in 2011. Evidence of these deaths was extracted from some 6,828 distinct reports collected from over 90 sources covering 1,904 incidents, each of which is openly listed on the IBC website. This brings the total number of deaths in the IBC database so far to 117,440. These numbers represent a verifiable documentary record of deaths, and are not estimates (for some partially estimated figures, see 'WikiLeaks update' below).
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Note: The pattern of incidents and deaths by gunfire shown in these graphs/tables must be read in light of the fact that many entries are based on data from morgues which aggregate many small incidents. Similarly, many deaths during the March-April invasion phase will only have been recorded in hospital death tolls without revealing whether deaths were from e.g air attacks or gunfire.
There has been a marked reduction in the level of violence in Iraq since 2008, so that recent trends are most meaningful from 2009 onwards. Main findings include:
2010-2011 totals for civilian deaths:
4,147 civilians were reported killed in 2011, compared to 4,109 in 2010.
From anti-government/occupation attacks:
Civilian deaths attributable to anti-government/occupation attacks have noticeably increased in 2011: 1,214 in 2011, up from 900 in 2010.
From US-led coalition and Iraqi state forces attacks:
The rate of Iraqi civilian deaths caused by US-led coalition forces has declined steadily from 2009, while the rate caused by Iraqi state forces has increased, with deaths resulting directly from actions involving US-led coalition forces falling to their smallest number ever, at a total of 19 reported by year end (down from 32 in 2010), and deaths involving Iraqi forces rising from 97 in 2010 to 145 in 2011.
The number of civilian deaths in Iraq in 2011 was almost at the same level as in 2010 – there has now been no noticeable downward trend since mid-2009. As observed in IBC’s previous annual report, recent trends indicate a persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come.1 While these data indicate no improvement, time will tell whether the withdrawal of US forces will have an effect on casualty levels.
Full 2003-2011 context
The total number of violent civilian deaths recorded since the 2003 invasion has now exceeded 114,000.
Total deaths with combatants, combining IBC and official records:
Combining IBC civilian data with official Iraqi and US combatant death figures and data from the Iraq War Logs released by WikiLeaks, we estimate the documented death toll across all categories since March 2003 to be 162,000, of whom 79% were civilians.
Most deadly period of violence:
Iraq's violence peaked in late 2006 but was sustained at high levels until the second half of 2008 – nearly 90% of the deaths occurred by 2009.
Weapons claiming the most victims:
62,636 of the civilian dead were reported killed by small arms gunfire; 38,616 by explosive weapons (such as IEDs, suicide attacks, and aerial bombardment); and 5,732 by airstrikes (including cannon-fire, bombs and missiles).
Of the 45,779 victims for whom IBC was able to obtain age data, 3,911 (8.54%) were children under age 18.
Police forces have been a major target, with 9,220 deaths reported - by far the largest toll of any professional group.
Data contained in the Iraq War Logs released by WikiLeaks (the largest official source on the conflict to have become publicly available) have already added a confirmed 1,363 civilian deaths to the IBC database. 629 of these deaths were directly caused by US-led coalition forces and 56 by Iraq security forces.2 We estimate that further analysis of the Logs will eventually add another 13,000 civilian deaths.
2See WikiLeaks additions to IBC.
3 This does not take into account any "death squad" or secret killings by state (or any other) forces where the bodies of victims have been delivered to morgues or discovered after summary execution, often tortured. On the role of various police units in such killings, see e.g. The Iraq Federal Police (PDF pp.5-7, United States Institute of Peace).
The majority of deaths in the IBC database are by such "unknown" perpetrators. A more detailed analysis by perpetrator is provided in an IBC-based study in PLoS Medicine (Feb 2011).
Civilians killed by US-led coalition
US forces killed far more Iraqi civilians than any other members of the US-led coalition, including various Iraqi military forces acting with or independently of them.3 The data on US forces killings show:
Total deaths from coalition forces:
14,925 (13%) of all documented civilian deaths were reported as being directly caused by the US-led coalition.
Children killed by coalition forces:
Of the 4,040 civilian victims of US-led coalition forces for whom age data was available, 1,201 (29%) were children.
Frequency of killings by coalition:
The frequency of small-scale killings involving US-led coalition forces is illustrated by data showing that for the period from 2005–2007, on average, they were killing civilians in 1 or 2 incidents per day, and over 3 civilians per day, for three straight years (1,512 incidents, 3,617 deaths averaging 3.3 deaths per day; with 1.4 incidents per day, or almost 10 per week, averaging 2.4 deaths per incident).
Most deadly period of violence from coalition forces:
Over half of the civilian deaths caused by US-led coalition forces occurred during the 2003 invasion and the sieges of Fallujah in 2004.
On a per-day basis, the highest intensity of civilian killings over a sustained period occurred during the first three “Shock and Awe” weeks of the 2003 invasion, when civilian deaths averaged 319 per day and totalled over 6,716 by April 9th, nearly all attributable to US-led coalition-forces
Iraqi casualties reached 7,425 by the time of President G.W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech of 1st May 2003. At recent, much lower levels of overall violence in Iraq, it has taken nearly the past two years of violence (resulting in some 8,000 deaths) by all parties to exceed the coalition-caused invasion civilian death toll of those first weeks of the conflict in March-April 2003.
The release of the Iraq War Logs by WikiLeaks enabled IBC to carry out some preliminary research into the number of casualties that the Logs might contain that have not been reported elsewhere. IBC was consequently able to provide an initial, but fairly robust, estimate that once fully analysed, the Logs would reveal another 15,000 civilian deaths (including 3,000 ordinary police) beyond the previously known death toll. 1,363 of these newly discovered deaths have been added to the IBC database thus far, including 629 caused directly by US-led coalition forces, and 56 by Iraqi security forces. 4
6 Note that the table entries marked 'central estimate' refer to estimates of the number of recorded deaths, not those which have failed to be documented in any way. While this approach likely accounts for most violent deaths due to conflict in a society as developed as Iraq's, the full number is certain to be higher than is presently known.
As we had long suspected,5 many of the previously unreported deaths caused by US-led forces found in the Iraq War Logs were of small-scale, but frequent "Escalation of Force" (EOF) cases where ordinary civilians were shot in their cars at checkpoints or similar circumstances due to a variety of tragic, and often shocking, failures in communication.
The Logs also allowed IBC to provide for the first time an estimate for (mainly Iraqi) combatant deaths killed since 2003. Updating these figures with deaths that have occurred throughout 2010 and 2011, and combining them with IBC's documented deaths as already recorded in the public IBC database, provides the following totals 6as of December 31:
|Iraq Body Count 2003-2011||114,212|
|Iraq War Logs new 'Civilian' and comparable 'Host Nation' remaining - central estimate||13,750|
|Iraq War Logs ‘Host Nation’ combatant - central estimate||5,575|
|Iraq War Logs ‘Enemy’ (minus IBC overlaps) - central estimate||20,499|
|Insurgents killed June-December 2003||597|
|Insurgents killed May 2004||652|
|Insurgents & Iraqi soldiers killed March 2009||59|
|Insurgents & Iraqi soldiers killed 2010–2011||2187|
|US & Coalition military killed 2003–2011||4,802|
7 Monthly ministries figures are widely reported but were given in most consistent detail during 2011 by Agence France-Presse.
Official figures released monthly by Iraqi ministries continue to be lower than IBC’s, as in previous years, and this year more so than last. 7 However, longer-term official figures released in 2009 by the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights show somewhat higher totals than IBC for 2004-6. This indicates, as does the WikiLeaks-published US military database, that a full accounting for the entire period from 2003 will be above, not below, IBC's present count. Unfortunately official Iraqi data is presented in aggregate form, whereas IBC's numbers are obtained from incidents individually listed on its website. This not only makes them open to public scrutiny for verification or amendment, but would allow item-by-item cross-referencing against other, similarly detailed sources.
Another source for figures over the last several years is the human rights NGO, the Monitor of Constitutional Freedom and Bill of Rights. These figures are generally closer to IBC's, but as these are currently published as monthly summaries, they cannot be directly cross-referenced and integrated with IBC’s to provide a more complete and authoritative, combined account.8