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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


by Lily Hamourtziadou

3 Jun 2007

At Baghdad’s Yarmouk hospital, a man and his wife, both injured in a bomb attack that killed 15 people in Amil, were lying on stretchers in the emergency room. The man, whose right foot had been amputated, screamed at his wife, who had shrapnel wounds and was unconscious: ‘Fatima! Where are the kids, Fatima?’ (LA Times, 30 May).

Iraqis live in a fear few of us can even imagine, a fear even fewer of us will ever experience. Police and morgue officials giving information on daily casualties, do so in anonymity, fearing they could be targeted by militants. Unclaimed and unidentified bodies fill the morgues every month, their relatives too frightened to identify and claim the bodies. They join thousands of others buried in mass graves.

In May 2,770 civilians were killed in Iraq, an average of 89 a day. The violence is up from April, when there were 2,590 reported civilian deaths, an average of 86 a day; in March the toll was 2,731, an average of 88 a day; in February 2,720 civilians died, an average of 97 a day, while in January 2,800 died, or 90 a day. In the first 5 months of 2007 already more than 13,600 civilians have been killed.

This past week alone, 680 civilian lives were snuffed out in violent attacks.

On Monday 28 May 125 die, 100 of them in Baghdad. The dead include 14 policemen, a college student, a newspaper editor and a translator.

On Tuesday 29 May, the worst day of the week, 150 lose their lives. Two car bombs kill 49 people in Baghdad, a journalist is killed by gunmen, together with 7 members of his family near Falluja, and 78 bodies are found in Baghdad, Suwayra, Baquba, Balad, Toz and Abu Tomar.

On Wednesday 30 May over 80 civilians die. Among the dead, 2 elderly people sleeping on the roof of their homes (common in Iraq during the summer, to escape the intense heat) killed by a US helicopter during an air raid over Sadr City. Militia raids in Amil, Baghdad, kill 21 Sunni men. Iraqi TV, Al-Iraqiya, reports that Sadr City residents call upon officials to intervene to stop the raids and shelling of the city by the Multinational Forces. ‘Citizens in the city affirmed that military operations in their city cause a large number of innocent casualties…The evenings are filled with the sounds of lethal ammunitions and terrifying raids. The residents do not sleep quietly or safely. No single day passes without the Multinational Force raiding and attacking several houses and causing the martyrdom and wounding of dozens of innocent people.’ (Al-Iraqiya 1 June)

Around 90 die on Thursday 31 May. In the worst incident, a suicide bomber kills 30 in a police recruitment centre in Falluja. Gunmen kill a lecturer in Fine Arts in Basra, while an Associated Press reporter is shot dead in Baghdad. The 26-year-old cameraman leaves a wife 8-months pregnant with their first child. 45 bodies are found in 7 cities, and 14 unidentified bodies are buried in Kirkuk.

Around 75 die on Friday 1 June. The dead include 3 children (7, 9 and 11 years of age) killed as a US tank fires on suspected insurgents near Falluja. The insurgents, who were thought to be planting a bomb, escape. Another US raid on Sadr City kills 2, one of them an ambulance driver. Gunmen kill 7 at a fake checkpoint in Khalis, and 33 bodies are found in Baghdad, Baquba and Khalis.

On the quietest day of the week, Saturday 2 June, 57 civilians die. Among them an Imam and a Sheikh, shot dead in Baghdad, and 8 killed by mortars in Fadhil, Baghdad –one of them a child. Police find 40 bodies in 5 cities. More than 2,000 people march the streets of Shula, a Shiite district in Baghdad, to demand improvements in basic services like electricity and water. The demonstrators denounce the United States, Israel and the US-backed Iraqi government.

On Sunday 3 June the dead exceed 100. A car bomb kills 10 in a market in Balad Ruz, gunmen kill 5 at a fake checkpoint near Baquba, US air strikes kill 5 in Sadr City and 2 in Dhilu’iya, while gunmen shoot dead a Catholic priest, 31-year-old Father Ragheed Ganni, and 3 deacons in Mosul. Police find 64 bodies in 6 cities. Another 41 unclaimed bodies are buried in Kirkuk.

Meanwhile, General Raymond Odierno, the number 2 head of US forces in Iraq, has stated that ‘the surge is not yet fully in place, and it will take time and patience before we begin to realise its effects.’ In fact, ‘we could be in Iraq for 50 years’ according to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. The sad truth is that the US will never leave Iraq. Despite the massive civilian death toll, despite the massive rise of terrorism, despite the rapidly increasing deaths of American soldiers.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has apologised for the deaths of American troops in his country. After a month when 2,770 Iraqi civilians die, the Iraqi President apologises for the deaths of 126 American soldiers. He continues: ‘Everyone in Iraq knows that…the United States saved the Iraqi people…the majority of people are for having the American Army.’ He really speaks for himself, as neither he nor anyone else in the Iraqi government would survive for one day if the US army that backs them withdrew from Iraq.

As my work for this column comes to an end, my thanks go to all those news reporters, war correspondents and journalists working for Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Press, Al-Jazeera, Al-Sharqiya, Al-Iraqiya, the BBC, the LA Times, the NY Times, the Washington Post, the National Iraqi News Agency, the Voices of Iraq, the Voices of America, the Kuwait News Agency…and many others. Many of them risk their own lives daily to provide us with information on this war and this occupation. Without their bravery, there wouldn’t be an Iraq Body Count.

Thanks also to our readers and their comments. You all make our and their work worthwhile.

As another summer starts, Iraqi life will continue to be dominated by fear, daily killings, terrorism. For them, it is another summer under occupation. For the rest of us, a happy summer, without fear.