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The analysis on this page is being published two days before the end of 2010, and is up-to-date to Dec 30. Figures displayed in blue are dynamic and will be updated from the IBC database as the remaining days are added, as well as by the analysis and addition of new data that emerges after publication.

At the bottom of the page is an interactive charting tool to perform data analyses. Comments of a technical nature should be addressed to

Iraqi deaths from violence in 2010

Analysis of the year’s civilian death toll from Iraq Body Count

First published Dec 30 2010


As in all recent years, we begin this annual trend analysis with an important caveat:

While 2010’s civilian death toll in Iraq is the lowest since the war began, the stark truth is that in 2010 that toll is higher, by at least 4,167 new deaths, than it was a year ago. For as long as this conflict continues, its death toll can only rise with each passing year and so, too, the pain and grief associated with it. For those who have lost loved ones in 2010, there is no sense in which the year can represent an “improvement” on 2009.

Yearly totals

Iraq Body Count (IBC) recorded 4,167 civilian deaths from violence in 2010 (compared to 5,382 in 2009). Evidence of these deaths was extracted from some 8,250 distinct reports collected from 143 sources, covering 1,685 incidents, each of which is openly published on the IBC website. These numbers represent a verifiable documentary record, not estimates (for some partially estimated figures, see the 'WikiLeaks' section below).

We noted in our 2009 analysis that our six-monthly data for that year ‘may indicate that the situation is no longer improving’. That somber observation is largely borne out by 2010’s data, which showed the smallest year-on-year reduction (proportionally as well as in absolute terms) since violence levels began to reduce from late 2007 onwards: 2008 reduced deaths by 63% on 2007, 2009 by 50% on 2008, but 2010 only improved by 15% on 2009. While any reduction in the violence rate is welcome, the slowdown in reductions is indicative of an impassable minimum that may have been reached (below, right). Hide graphs

Taken as a whole and seen in the context of immediately preceding years, the 2010 data suggest a persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come. The within-year trend for 2010 is somewhat more hopeful: the US “end of combat mission” on 31 Aug 2010 was followed by an immediate halving in the number of civilian deaths between August and September, and lowered levels have continued into the Winter months (with December so far showing the lowest toll of the year). It remains to be seen whether this improvement will persist into 2011.

Two most violent cities

The geographic spread of violence also shows the continuity typical of this year's casualty data. Mosul (estimated population 1.8m) remains extraordinarily violent relative to its size, with more events recorded there than in Baghdad (est. pop. 6.5m) for the early part of the year. However, roughly since the declared "end of combat mission" Baghdad has again become the city in which violence is most prevalent in absolute terms (but given its much greater size, proportionally less so than Mosul). Hide graphs

Civilian deaths caused by Coalition and Iraqi state forces

Non-combatant Iraqi deaths resulting directly from actions involving US-led coalition forces were half as many as in 2009, with a total of 32 reported by Dec 30 (2009: 87). Deaths involving Iraqi forces changed only slightly, from 123 in 2009 to 98 in 2010.

Of these deaths caused by US-coalition and Iraqi state forces, the number killed in joint actions was also almost the same in 2009 (16) as in 2010 (15); the overall number of civilians killed by state forces (US-coalition, Iraqi, or both) was 194 in 2009 and 115 in 2010. Hide graph

Anti-occupation forces

1 'Unknown agents' are defined by IBC as: Those who appear to attack civilian targets lacking a clear or unambiguous link to the foreign military presence in Iraq. This may include some overlap with other groups as well as with criminal murders.

'Anti-occupation forces' are identified by IBC when: their targets were either US-led Coalition personnel or Iraqis working for, or in collaboration with, the Coalition forces. Whether the current situation in Iraq is strictly an occupation is irrelevant to this classification: it is sufficient that the anti-occupation forces see themselves as such. See IBC's 2005 Dossier for more (Glossary, p.26, and Killers, pp.10-11).

The difficulty of reliably identifying many of the perpetrator groups behind civilian deaths in Iraq’s post-invasion armed conflict (with the exception of uniformed forces) means that most of the deaths recorded by IBC are assigned to the Unknown agent category. However even from the minority of incidents where perpetrators could be positively identified, it is apparent that 2010's violence profile remains one where “anti-occupation” activity continues to play a central part in the deaths of Iraqi civilians and, most obviously, police or Government-allied targets (police forces members accounting for 1,083 (26.0%) of the deaths recorded by IBC in 2010). 1 Hide graphs

Largest-scale bombings

Large-scale bombings killing more than 50 civilians per attack continue to have a severe impact, claiming 567 lives in 9 such incidents during 2010 (compared to 758 deaths in 8 attacks during 2009). Particularly devastating about these attacks is that they also produce 3 or more times as many wounded: 1,633 this year. Hide graph

'Everyday terrorism'

After nearly 8 years, the security crisis in Iraq remains notable for its sheer relentlessness: 2010 averaged nearly two explosions a day by non-state forces that caused civilian deaths (691 explosions killing 2,677). As well as occurring almost daily, these lethal explosions can happen almost anywhere, with 2010‘s attacks occurring in 13 of Iraq's 18 governorates (administrative regions). Such non-state bombings were responsible for 64% of all Iraqi civilian deaths in 2010. Hide graphs

WikiLeaks recap and update

The release and publication by WikiLeaks of the ‘Iraq War Logs’ provided IBC with the first large-scale database we could compare and cross-reference with our own. For most of its incidents this military database is as detailed as IBC's, and quite often more so. its release in such a  highly detailed form enabled us to carry out some preliminary research into the number of casualties that the logs might contain that have not been reported elsewhere.

IBC was consequently able to provide an initial, but fairly robust, estimate that once fully analysed, the logs would reveal another 15,000 civilian deaths (including 3,000 ordinary police) beyond the previously known death toll.

The logs also allowed IBC to provide for the first time an estimate for (mainly Iraqi) combatant deaths killed since 2003.

Updating these figures with deaths that have occurred throughout 2010, and combining them with IBC's documented deaths as already recorded in the public IBC database, provides the following totals2 as of Dec 26:

2 Note that the table entries marked 'central estimate' refer to estimates of the number of recorded deaths, not those which have failed to be documented in any way. While this approach likely accounts for most violent deaths due to conflict in a society as developed as Iraq's, the full number is certain to be higher than is presently known.

Iraq Body Count 2003-25 December 2010108,391
Iraq War Logs new 'Civilian' and comparable 'Host Nation' - central estimate15,114
Iraq War Logs ‘Host Nation’ combatant - central estimate5,575
Iraq War Logs ‘Enemy’ (minus IBC overlaps) - central estimate20,499
Insurgents killed June-December 2003597
Insurgents killed May 2004652
Insurgents & Iraqi soldiers killed March 200959
Insurgents & Iraqi soldiers killed January-November 20101084
US & Coalition military killed to 25 Dec 20104,748

Official statistics

3 Monthly ministries figures are widely reported but were given in most consistent detail during 2010 (as in 2009) by Agence France-Presse.

Official figures released monthly by Iraqi ministries continue to be lower than IBC’s (as in previous years); 3 however, longer-term official figures released in 2009 by the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights show somewhat higher totals than IBC for 2004-6. This indicates, as does the WikiLeaks-published US military database, that a full accounting for the entire period from 2003 will be above, not below, IBC's present count. Official Iraqi figures are presented in aggregate form, whereas IBC's numbers are obtained from incidents individually listed on its website that are open to public scrutiny for verification, amendment, and item-by-item cross-referencing against other, similarly detailed sources.

Another source for figures over the last several years is the human rights NGO, the Monitor of Constitutional Freedom and Bill of Rights. These figures are generally closer to IBC's, but as these are currently published as monthly summaries, they cannot be directly cross-referenced and combined with IBC’s to provide a more complete and authoritative account.4

4 MRFC (In Arabic)

For Iraqi military and other combatant deaths in 2010, the Ministry figures remain the best available at the current time. Using these figures (408 Iraqi soldiers + 676 “insurgents”), adding in the 60 US forces killed in 2010, and adding these to the IBC civilian figure of 4,167 provides a total of 5,311 documented violent deaths for the year 2010, of which 78% were civilian. This civilian/combatant ratio corresponds very closely to our finding of 80% for the entire period of the war (largely based on the WikiLeaks data). Hide graph

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