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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.

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The Week in Iraq

'Conditions that could lead to civil war'

by Lily Hamourtziadou

3 Sep 2006

It was reported this week that there was a 'relatively low civilian death toll in August'. If this is true, and over 1,000 murdered civilians in one month is relatively low, then the situation in Iraq is truly tragic.
Despite continued denials (by George W. Bush) that there is a civil war in Iraq, the Pentagon this week admitted that the conditions that could lead to a civil war are now present in Iraq.

Indeed, from Sunday 27 August to late Monday 28, there were fierce clashes between Shia militiamen and the Iraqi army. Up to 70 lives were lost in the clashes, mainly soldiers and gunmen. The death toll this week was around 330.

On Monday 28 August over 20 civilians were killed, 16 of whom died when a suicide bomber drove a car filled with explosives into the gate of the Iraqi interior ministry offices. Moreover, 9 civilians, including a girl of 12, were killed in the clashes.

On Tuesday 29 August, over 20 bodies were found in Baghdad, while a woman and a child were killed when their home was struck by mortar shells. The remarkable incident of this day, however, is the pipe explosion, in which over 70 civilians were reported dead. The pipe that is normally guarded was left unattended, due to the prolonged battles between the Shias and the army, creating a power vacuum. After the battles drew away the police, people tried to get some fuel out of the pipe, causing an explosion.

Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 August can be described only as days of massacres.

Wednesday saw the deaths of over 70 civilians, due to the usual: market bombs, roadside bombs, shootings. Some incidents stand out for their brutality and senselessness:
A motorist was killed by US troops for driving too close to where they stood; 7 members of one family, including 4 women and 2 children, were killed in their minivan by a roadside bomb in Buhriz; a bloody attack in a market in Shurja killed over 20 people. The blast ended the lives of small time market traders and vendors. 4 women cardamom vendors lost their lives (they were beheaded in the blast), a widow and mother of 12 was also killed tried to earn a living in the market, while Hussam Abdul Kareem -a married father of 2- died among the peanuts and pistachios he was selling.
More tragic victims: 3 carpet merchants were killed in a taxi on their way to work.

Thursday 31, and the massacres continue. Blasts kill people waiting in a queue outside a bakery, while over 60 people die in their homes when blocks of flats collapse in a series of explosions. One theory as to the cause is that explosives had been planted in previously rented flats. Among the dead were 19 children and 24 women.
In Baquba police found the bodies of 5 women, riddled with bullets, while a family of 4 (man, wife, 2 children) is shot dead by US sniper as they walk home.
In all this carnage, a rather strange report: 2 people died after sniffing poison-gas 'perfume' bottles sold in markets, while more were hospitalised. Authorities warned civilians not to sniff such supposed 'perfume' containers.

That civilian deaths were down by 28% in August (from July) is no consolation to this week's victims. August ended with the blood of hundreds of civilians spilt in streets all over Iraq.

On Friday 1 September mortar shells kill a child in Mahmudiya, and on Saturday 2 September the death toll rises again to around 30. The bodies of 14 pilgrims (Pakistani and Indian Shia muslims) are found, having been tortured and murdered either on Thursday or on Friday. Among the dead pilgrims were 5 women.

Sunday 3 September and 6 more children die. In a car explosion a father dies together with his 4 children in Baquba, and later mass graves are found in various locations (one of them is found to contain 20 bodies).
A family of 9 is shot dead by gunmen in Hit, and in the evening the bodies of two comedians are found shot dead in Ramadi. They were acting in a popular series shown by Al-Sharqiyah TV called 'Love and War'.

As seems to have become the norm in Iraq, this week saw the tragic deaths of people doing nothing more than going about their lives, trying to earn a living, looking after their families, not fighting, not provoking, not challenging -simply surviving. The saddest deaths are those of the unfortunates who died in their homes.