Iraq's government said more than 85,000 Iraqis were killed from 2004 to 2008 in sectarian violence that nearly led to a civil war.
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s government said more than 85,000 Iraqis were killed from 2004 to 2008 in sectarian violence that nearly led to a civil war.
The report by the Human Rights Ministry officially answers one of the biggest questions of the conflict. What remains unanswered by the government is how many died in the 2003 U.S. invasion and in the months of chaos that followed it.
The report said 85,694 Iraqis were killed from the beginning of 2004 to Oct. 31, 2008, and 147,195 were wounded. The figures included civilians, military and police but did not cover U.S. military deaths, insurgents or foreigners, including contractors.
The Associated Press, using government statistics, reported similar figures in April: 87,215 Iraqi deaths from 2005 to February 2009. That estimate included violence ranging from catastrophic bombings to execution-style slayings.
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Until that report, the government toll of Iraqi deaths had been one of the war’s most closely guarded secrets. Supporters and opponents of the conflict have accused the other of manipulating the toll to sway public opinion.
The 85,694 number represents about 0.3 percent of Iraq’s estimated 29 million population. That would be akin to the United States losing about 900,000 people in a similar period.
Violence in Iraq has declined substantially since the height of the fighting. Ali Khalil, 27, of Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood, said he was not surprised by the government’s figures.
“I expect that the real numbers of the people killed are higher than this,” said Khalil, whose father was shot in late 2006. He said he did not believe the country would return to the high numbers of dead because security has improved.
Iraq’s death toll continued to climb Wednesday, however, when armed men killed at least eight people and wounded nine during a daylight robbery of three jewelry stores in Baghdad, a crime that residents blamed on security forces.
Witnesses said two dark-blue minibuses carrying 12 to 15 men arrived in a Shiite neighborhood in northwestern Baghdad at 2 p.m. and parked a block away from the market where the jewelry stores are located.
At the first store, the men shot the owner in the head with a gun equipped with a silencer and robbed the place. They then looted two more stores, killing the owners. Along the way, they killed five other people, including a woman and her 8-month-old baby.
Before leaving, they tossed grenades into the market and shot at nearby cars to ensure they were not followed.
Interior Ministry officials said six soldiers and an officer were arrested for failing to protect the area.
Also Wednesday, three near simultaneous blasts struck the southern Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing at least six people.
According to the ministry’s report, the dead from 2004 to 2008 included 1,279 children and 2,334 women. At least 263 professors, 21 judges, 95 lawyers and 269 journalists were killed, professions targeted as the country descended into chaos.
The count also included 15,000 unidentified bodies that were buried after going unclaimed.
Significantly, the report does not include figures from 2003, a period during which there was no functioning Iraqi government.
The new toll was based on death certificates issued by the Health Ministry. The tolls measure only violent deaths: people killed in attacks such as the shootings, bombings, mortar attacks and beheadings. They exclude indirect factors such as damage to infrastructure, health care and stress.
While the Pentagon maintains meticulous records of the number of U.S. troops killed — at least 4,349 as of Wednesday — it does not publicly release comprehensive Iraqi casualty figures.
Details about Wednesday’s violence were reported by The Washington Post.