Press Release 14 16 Oct 2006
On average, a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms.
Between January and June 2006, there were 91 violent deaths recorded by the Lancet survey. This would correspond to over 180,000 deaths in the first 6 months of 2006, and an average rate of 1,000 per day. The daily death rate over the same period based on UN reports (which sum Baghdad morgue and Ministry of Health data) is 80 violent deaths per day. Cumulated media reports provide a somewhat lower figure.
If the Lancet extrapolation is sound, this would imply a further 920 violent deaths every day (1000 minus 80) which have been recorded by neither officials nor the media. As these are averages, some days would see many more deaths, and others substantially fewer, but in either case, all of them would remain unnoticed.
If we consider the Lancet's June 2005 – June 2006 period, whose violent toll it estimates at 330,000, then daily estimates become lower but would still require 768 unrecorded violent deaths for every 67 that are recorded. The IBC database shows that the average number of people killed in any one violent attack is five. Therefore it would require about 150 unreported, average-size, violent assaults per day to account for 768 deaths.
It is unlikely that incidents of this scale would be so consistently missed by the various media in Iraq. Although IBC technically requires only two sources for every corroborated death in its database, we actually collect, archive and analyse every unique report we can find about each incident before it is added to our database. For larger incidents the number of reports can run into the dozens, including news published in English in the original and others, mostly the Iraqi press, published in translation. In IBC's news archive for August 2006 the average-size attack leaving 5 civilians killed has a median number of 6 reports on it.
If, as our data suggest, smaller incidents are the ones that are most likely to be under-reported, then the number of "hidden" assaults implied by this study could be far greater. For instance, if the average number of people killed in each such assault were two, then the number of unreported deadly assaults would have to rise to 380 per day.
One possible way of explaining such a very large number of small-scale unreported assaults is to suppose that many of these are the result of "secret" killings which have resulted from abduction, execution by gunfire, or beheading. But 42% of the 330,000 Lancet-estimated violent deaths in this final 13-month period are ascribed to "explosives/ordnance", car bombs, or air strikes, all of which carry a fairly heavy and hardly 'secret' toll (and will generally create at least 3 times as many wounded).
The Lancet's 2005-2006 data generates an Iraqi average daily death toll of 350 from these explosions and air strikes, of which deaths only a small fraction are officially recorded or reported. More specifically, Lancet data suggests large numbers of deadly car bombings occurring on a daily basis, of which only a small fraction are ever reported (and whose victims, including injured, fail to be recorded by hospitals).
Lancet estimates 150 people to have died from car bombs alone, on average, every day during June 2005-June 2006. IBC's database of deadly car bomb incidents shows they kill 7-8 people on average. Lancet's estimate corresponds to about 20 car bombs per day, all but one or two of which fail to be reported by the media. Yet car bombs fall well within the earlier-mentioned category of incidents which average 6 unique reports on them.
'Baghdad-weighting' of media reports, even if applicable to car bombs, is unlikely to account for this level of under-reporting, as half of the car bombs IBC has recorded have been outside Baghdad. The Pentagon, which has every reason to highlight the lethality of car bombs to Iraqis, records, on average, two to three car-bombings per day throughout Iraq, including those hitting only its own forces or causing no casualties, for the period in question.