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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

Security and other plans

by Lily Hamourtziadou

4 Mar 2007

A limited raid in the Jamila section of Sadr City took place on Sunday, when 600 US soldiers and 550 Iraqi troops, backed by a column of armoured vehicles, conducted a door-to-door search for weapons. Sunday’s operation was described as a first step towards establishing a permanent US-Iraqi security station within Sadr City. At least 15 stations have already been established in other neighbourhoods of Baghdad, according to the US military, and several more are planned.

The peaceful raid, during which ‘not a shot was fired’ and no arrests were made, is part of the new security plan that came into force three weeks ago, a plan that has been somewhat effective. The figures for February show no sign of this, as 2,720 were reported dead, an average of 97 a day, which is worse than January, when 2,800 were killed, an average of 90 a day. Moreover, while there were only 2 major attacks in January, there were 5 in February.

There was a marked decrease in violence this week, however, when around 450 civilians died.

On Monday 26 February 66 civilians are reported dead, 12 killed at an explosion at an Iraqi Ministry during a ceremony attended by the Vice President. In Ramadi 15 are killed by a suicide bomber who blows up an ambulance at a police station; 3 children die in the attack. In the streets of Baghdad 25 bodies are found.

Around 70 die on Tuesday 27 February, 3 at a Baghdad restaurant, 5 in an ice cream shop, 5 in an explosion in Suwayra, and 8 policemen are killed by a suicide bomber in a truck in Mosul. In Baghdad 31 bodies are found bound and tortured. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates declares ‘we clearly have no desire for permanent bases in Iraq.’

On Wednesday 28 February over 60 die; 10 are killed by a car bomb near a vegetable market in Bayaa, Baghdad; another 13 in various incidents around Baghdad, while 18 bodies are found in Baghdad, Mosul, Tikrit and Himreen. In Karbala 60 unidentified bodies are buried.

Thursday 1 March has the highest death toll of the week: there are 81 reported civilian deaths. Among the victims are 8 wedding guests killed by a car bomb in Falluja, while celebrating the wedding of a policeman. Another 7 people die at a market bombing in Mahaweel, and 35 bodies are found in Baghdad, Balad and Baquba.

Friday 2 March has the lowest death toll of the week: only 45 are reported dead. In Sadr City 10 die near a used car market, when a car bomb explodes, while 2 football players are shot dead during a match. In Baquba the bodies of 14 policemen, abducted the previous day, are found bound and tortured. Another 12 bodies are found in Baghdad, Yathrib and Iskandariya.

On Saturday 3 March 67 are killed, including 6 Sunnis from the same family shot dead by gunmen in Yusufiya, after attending a reconciliation meeting with Shias. A child and 3 women are blown up by a roadside bomb near Latifiya, a suicide bomber kills 12, a child among them, at a police checkpoint in Ramadi, and police find 28 bodies in Baghdad, Baquba, Mosul and Kirkuk.

On Sunday 4 March 58 are killed, including 7 policemen in al-Baghdadi, 6 people in Muqdadiya and 30 bodies in Baghdad and Mosul.

The new security plan is not the only plan that seems to be working. The government’s resettlement plan has helped as many as 1,000 families to return to Madaen, Shaab and Mahmudiya, according to the Migration Ministry. They are still a small portion of the total number of displaced; across Iraq as many as 540,000 people have fled their homes since February 2006.

Al-Maliki’s next reconciliation plan hinges on an international conference, called by the Iraqi government, to take place in Baghdad during the coming week. Scheduled for 10 March, the conference will be attended by the foreign ministers and representatives from the USA, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Russia, China, Britain, France, as well as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zebari said the initial mid-level meeting would be a chance for Western and regional powers to try to bridge some of their differences on Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki is also hoping the conference will bring reconciliation and support for his government.

Meanwhile, living conditions are still deteriorating for Iraqi citizens. It was announced this week that the last major British charity working in Iraq is pulling out, as the worsening security situation makes it impossible to safeguard staff. Save the Children UK has announced that, after 15 years in the country, it is to shut its office, as it can no longer reach the children it tries to help. The charity repaired and equipped schools and hospitals in the aftermath of the invasion, and lobbied for children’s rights to be included in the new Iraqi constitution. Many other British charities have already pulled out of Iraq; Care International closed its operations there in 2005, after the abduction and murder of Margaret Hassan, its director in Iraq. This is very bad news for Iraqi children, because they desperately need help and care. Children in Iraq form 50% of the population and around 8% are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition. Poverty and insecurity are the main causes of their deteriorating diets. With insecurity forcing the closure of many health centres, and hospitals and clinics lacking medicines and specialists, Iraq’s population is increasingly being cut off from access to proper healthcare, say officials at UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.

Iraq may need all the plans its government can come up with.