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For the first time, IBC is able to release figures for the preceding year immediately after it has ended (an improvement made possible by system upgrades introduced in late 2007).

While all IBC numbers are subject to revision, only the figures for December are entirely provisional as of the initial publication date of 1st Jan 2008.

Civilian deaths from violence in 2007

Analysis of the year’s toll from the Iraq Body Count project

First published Jan 1 2008

Summary

Another 22,586–24,159 civilian deaths have been recorded in 2007 through Iraq Body Count’s extensive monitoring of media and official reports. These figures, though undoubtedly incomplete, are the most comprehensive and well-established currently available, and show beyond any doubt that civil security in Iraq remains in a parlous state. Figures for the most recent months indicate that violence in Iraq has returned to the monthly levels IBC was recording in 2005, a year which was itself (until 2006) the worst since the invasion. 1

Year Civilians Killed
2003 10,077 – 12,010
2004 9,741 – 10,573
2005 13,071 – 14,324
2006 25,699 – 27,519
2007 22,586 – 24,159

As of January 1st 2008, the IBC total for violent civilian deaths to the end of 2007 is 81,174–88,585 (including our preliminary figure of 902 for December 2007).

Major monthly trends

The graphs below show the 2006 and 2007 totals month by month, first for all of Iraq, then for Baghdad, and then for the rest of the country. (Totals for December 2007 are currently preliminary.)

All violent causes of death, 2006-2007
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Preliminary data
Total
Deaths per day from shootings and executions in Baghdad
Baghdad
Deaths per day from shootings and executions in Baghdad
Outside Baghdad
Deaths per day from shootings and executions in Baghdad

With two exceptions (May and July), the 2007 civilian death toll in Baghdad has fallen steadily month on month.  By December 2007 this had fallen to around 246, about one-seventh of the starting January total of 1,683. 2

2 In tracking trends, whenever there is a range in the IBC numbers the higher figure is used. Many of the figures and all of the graphs on this page are dynamic and will update as new data are analysed and added.

Data now being displayed was last updated on 1 Jan 2008.

In contrast, the monthly toll outside Baghdad increased substantially between January (1,112) and August (1,604), before a steep drop to around 700 per month and below for September through December.  

Collating these two different trends yields a picture for the entire country where the civilian death rates stayed consistently high (at around 2,500 per month) for the first eight months, changing fairly suddenly to around 1,000 per month over the last four months to the end of the year 2007. (The trend line is complicated by a single massive event in August, 2007, IBC entry k7225, which alone accounted for more than 500 of the deaths in that month.)

While violence in Baghdad apparently continues its decline, areas elsewhere exhibit less positive signs, and have shown sharp rises in some of the places where violence is most concentrated (for more on this see the following section).

Further key features of the 2007 civilian death toll:

  • The most violent 12-month period in Iraq’s recent history extended from July 2006 to June 2007, with 29,625 to 31,852 civilian deaths recorded.
  • Trends from mid-2007 onwards show monthly violence levels on the decrease.
  • Since March 2007 every month has seen more civilian deaths outside Baghdad than inside it. This has never happened before.

3 Computed per-capita death rates are sensitive to several factors, including the accuracy of existing population estimates. The data used here (ILCS 2004, p.16 [PDF]), has become outdated by mass refugee movement in the intervening years. The IBC-computed, civilian-only rates for these regions are therefore uncertain, but likely conservative, since refugee outflows will most affect these high violence areas.

4 Deaths recorded in Anbar during 2007 included numerous finds of bodies which may have been buried many months earlier.

  • Per-capita,3 the five most violent governorates in Iraq during 2007 were:
    1. Diyala, at 255 violent civilian deaths per 100,000 inhabitants (up 29% from 197/100k in 2006)
    2. Baghdad, at 164/100k (down 39% from 267/100k)
    3. Anbar, at 122/100k (up 61% from 76/100k) 4
    4. Salah al-Din, at 120/100k (up 26% from 95/100k)
    5. Ninewa, at 100/100k (up 143% from 41/100k)
  • Overall, Iraq’s 2007 civilian death rate from violence related to the invasion was 89/100k in 2007, down from 101/100k in 2006. For comparison, the 2006 homicide rate for the USA was around 5/100k (which does not, of course, experience incidents as disruptive to civilian security as car bombs in shopping precincts).
  • The first 8 months of 2007 saw the most massive vehicle bomb-based attacks in Iraq’s history, and occurring with greater frequency than ever. There were 20 bomb attacks killing over 50 (in one case, over 500) civilians in 2007, compared to 12 in 2006 and 17 in all of 2003 to 2005. However, there have been no further vehicle bomb attacks of this scale since August 2007.5
  • Bodies found in Baghdad (usually executed after torture) have shown the steepest decline, from nearly 1,000 reported in January to around 120 in December 2007 .
  • Deaths of non-combatants such as civilian bystanders killed in firefights and other attacks involving US-led Coalition military forces rose from 544–623 in 2006 to 868–1,326 in 2007.
  • Air strikes featured in the vast majority of these incidents, which left at least 88 children dead.
  • Civilian deaths directly attributable to US forces alone (ie, not involving any other combatants) increased steeply from 394–434 reported in 2006 to 669–756 in 2007.
  • At least 658 known child deaths are among the overall figures recorded by IBC in 2007, but this is certainly fewer than our figures must contain, as only 34.6% of victims’ ages were reported.
  • No more than 5.5% of victims killed in 2007 were reported in enough depth to put a name to them. While IBC makes every effort to record any available personal information about each victim, the vast majority continue to die without public knowledge of even this basic mark of their individuality as human beings.

Discussion

Perhaps the most accurate description of the security situation for Iraqi civilians in the past year is that it was less bad than if the worst of the late 2006 levels had been sustained throughout 2007. To herald ‘security improvements’ in 2007 is to overlook not only that security remains at an abysmally low level, but that for some 24,000 Iraqi civilians, and their families and friends, the year was one of devastating and irreparable tragedy.

One hopeful sign that does distinguish the most recent six-month period from earlier post-invasion periods is that civilian deaths per month continue to trend downwards, particularly in Baghdad. If some of this reduction in violence has been obtained through the US-led security initiative,6 then this has also been at the price of an increase, compared to 2006, in the number of non-combatants killed directly and solely by US fire, most often from the air.

Given that Iraq’s continuing paroxysm of violence began with a massive exercise of US firepower, the sooner the US regime learns to employ means other than violence to solve the problem of violence in Iraq, the sooner there will be genuine cause for optimism.

Appendix

Comment on alternative totals

The IBC totals derive from all reputable sources that allow the ascription of deaths or of bodies being found to, at the very least, a particular time or place, and enables these deaths to be distinguished from others (for more about our sources see our Methods, section 2). On 31st December 2007 figures from Iraq’s Ministries of Interior, Health, and Defence were published, claiming 16,232 civilian deaths and 1,300 police deaths in 2007. Despite their lack of detail, these figures are considerably lower than the IBC totals for the comparable period (as they have been in earlier years).

Unfortunately, in the absence of the release of incident-by-incident data by the Ministries concerned, or details on the methods used for compiling these figures, there is no easy way of identifying the source of the difference between ministry and IBC totals. The same difficulty adheres to figures provided from time to time by the US Department of Defense.

What can be said is that each IBC figure is supported by public-domain information at the greatest level of detail available. Therefore the onus is on those who have provided lower aggregate official figures to explain to the world at large which of the specific IBC-recorded incidents are not included in their 2007 civilian death toll and why.

Data used in graphics

Deaths per month, 2006 to 2007: in Iraq, Baghdad, Outside Baghdad.
Month Iraq Baghdad Outside Baghdad
Jan 2006 1,544 872 672
Feb 2006 1,570 1,067 503
Mar 2006 1,946 1,315 631
Apr 2006 1,799 1,095 704
May 2006 2,271 1,428 843
Jun 2006 2,563 1,578 985
Jul 2006 3,281 1,962 1,319
Aug 2006 2,851 1,608 1,243
Sep 2006 2,559 1,516 1,043
Oct 2006 2,977 1,631 1,346
Nov 2006 3,064 1,796 1,268
Dec 2006 2,886 1,781 1,105
Jan 2007 2,969 1,714 1,255
Feb 2007 2,652 1,355 1,297
Mar 2007 2,699 1,154 1,545
Apr 2007 2,538 1,042 1,496
May 2007 2,834 1,342 1,492
Jun 2007 2,192 1,017 1,175
Jul 2007 2,690 1,205 1,485
Aug 2007 2,481 741 1,740
Sep 2007 1,366 565 801
Oct 2007 1,295 387 908
Nov 2007 1,110 309 801
Dec 2007* 902 246 656

* Preliminary figures