Correction to This Article
In some editions of The Washington Post, this story incorrectly described the time frame for the insurgency in Iraq. This story has been corrected.

Iraq Puts Civilian Toll at 12,000

Iraqi officials take notes at the scene of a car bombing near Kirkuk at the entrance to a compound for the national oil company and two consulates.
Iraqi officials take notes at the scene of a car bombing near Kirkuk at the entrance to a compound for the national oil company and two consulates. (By Slahaldeen Rasheed -- Reuters)

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By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 3, 2005

BAGHDAD, June 2 -- Insurgent violence has claimed the lives of 12,000 Iraqis over the past 18 months, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said Thursday, giving the first official count for the largest category of victims of bombings, ambushes and other increasingly deadly attacks.

At least 36 more Iraqi civilians, security force members and officials were killed Thursday in attacks that underscored the ruthlessness and growing randomness of much of the violence. The day's victims included 12 people killed when a suicide attacker drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into a restaurant near the northern city of Kirkuk.

In Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a market area crowded with civilians, killing nine, the Defense Ministry said.

The U.S. military reported that two soldiers were killed Wednesday, by a bomb and by small-arms fire, in the western city of Ramadi.

Thursday's violence demonstrated the ability of insurgents to keep up attacks despite a week-old security operation in Baghdad billed as the most aggressive yet by Iraq's new government, in office for less than two months.

The checkpoints and raids that leaders have dubbed Operation Lightning have brought all roads in and out of the capital under government control, said Jabr, the minister in charge of Iraq's police forces. The actions are meant to expose insurgent hideouts in the city, he told reporters from some foreign news organizations, adding, "Within the next few months, we can deal with all of the killings and assassinations."

Jabr said security forces had detained 700 "terrorists" and killed 28 during the operation. The Defense Ministry said Wednesday that 680 people had been detained but that all but 95 had been released for lack of evidence warranting prosecution.

Interior Ministry statistics showed 12,000 civilians killed by insurgents in the last year and a half, Jabr said. The figure breaks down to an average of more than 20 civilians killed by bombings and other attacks each day. Authorities estimate that more than 10,500 of the victims were Shiite Muslims, based on the locations of the deaths, Jabr said.

There have been 1,663 U.S. military deaths since the United States led the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, according to the Pentagon's official count. Bombings and other insurgent strikes have killed thousands of Iraqi security force members. No official totals have been released for those dead, or for the total number of civilian casualties since the start of the war. The U.S. military says it does not keep a comprehensive tally of people it has killed in combat, although it has released numbers of dead in major operations and has acknowledged civilians it has killed if it has become generally known that those people died during a U.S. firefight or attack.

Jabr said the government figures showed that Shiites had suffered the bulk of insurgent attacks. No Sunni Muslim mosques, for example, had been destroyed, he said.

Iraq's insurgency is led largely by members of the Sunni Arab minority that was toppled from power with Saddam Hussein. Foreign Arab fighters are largely blamed for the suicide bombings that now claim most of the lives.

Jabr, in some of his first extended remarks to reporters since becoming interior minister, said he saw no legitimacy in the cause of the Sunni Arab fighters. "I have not seen any 'resistance,' " Jabr said in response to a question about clemency for so-called resistance fighters who lay down their arms. "There is terror, and all sides have agreed that anyone raising guns and killing Iraqis is a terrorist."


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