2,660 Iraqi Civilians Killed in Sept.

The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 11, 2006; 12:39 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- More than 2,660 Iraqi civilians were killed in the capital in September amid a wave of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks, an increase of 400 over the month before, according to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry.

The increase came despite an intensified U.S.-Iraqi sweep of Baghdad that was launched in mid-August to try to put down the wave of violence that has swept over the capital. The violence consists of a deadly combination of bombings and shootings by Sunni insurgents, and slayings by Shiite and Sunni death squads.

The September numbers come as a controversial new study contends that nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died in the three-year-old conflict in Iraq _ more than 10 times higher than other independent estimates of the toll.

President Bush dismissed as "just not credible" the study's estimate study that contends nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war.

Bush, who in the past has suggested 30,000 civilian deaths in Iraq, would not give a figure for overall fatalities. "A lot of innocent people have lost their life," he said at a news conference in Washington.

The study, which is to be published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal, was based on a survey of households in Iraq, not a body count, and quickly raised skepticism among some Iraq experts.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said it was difficult "with any certainty" to estimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have died, and said the department does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

"We take great precautions in our military operations," he said. "That's in stark contrast to what the enemy in Iraq is doing. They take no such precautions. In fact, they deliberately target innocent civilians in their attacks."

An accurate count of total Iraqi deaths since the war's start has been difficult to obtain. According to an Associated Press tally, at least 13,414 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence through Tuesday since the new government took office on April 28, 2005. Of those, 9,300 were civilians.

The AP tally is compiled from hospital, police and military officials cited in news stories, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers at the scenes. The actual number is likely higher as many killings go unreported or uncounted.

A private group called Iraqi Body Count says it has recorded about 44,000 to 49,000 civilian Iraqi deaths. But it notes that those totals are based on media reports, which it says probably overlook "many if not most civilian casualties."

The figures for the number of civilian deaths in September in Baghdad came in an official monthly report from the Health Ministry to the Cabinet on the number of Baghdad victims of violent deaths, two senior ministry officials told The Associated Press.

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