By Leila Fadel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 11:37 PM
BAGHDAD - The U.S. military released its most detailed compilation of data on Iraqi casualties during more than four years of the Iraq war, reporting that 63,185 civilians and 13,754 members of the country's security forces were killed from the beginning of 2004 through August 2008.
The number of Iraqis killed in the more than seven-year-old war is a hotly debated topic. Estimates range from fewer than 100,000 to hundreds of thousands, and it is difficult to determine which number is the most accurate.
The casualty figures released by the United States are lower than Iraqi government accounts. Iraq's Human Rights Ministry reported last year that 85,694 Iraqis, including military and police personnel, were killed from the beginning of 2004 through October 2008.
A spokesman for the ministry said the U.S. military data were close to its figures and should not be dismissed. "In the end, human life is not measured by numbers," said Kamel Amin, the spokesman. "This number has social consequences. Behind the number of dead are scores of handicapped people, widows and orphans."
The U.S. data include the bloodiest years of the war, from 2005 to 2007, when sectarian violence gripped the nation.
In the period covered by the U.S. report, at least 121,649 Iraqis were wounded. Among coalition troops, 3,592 were killed and 30,068 wounded.
The U.S. military collects detailed information on Iraqi casualties but has largely been unwilling to make it public, only occasionally releasing limited data on civilian fatalities. The report, which was posted on the U.S. Central Command Web site in July but drew little notice until Thursday, was prompted by a Freedom of Information Act request from George Washington University's National Security Archive.
The figures do not include the immediate aftermath of the U.S.-led military invasion in 2003. A U.S. military spokesman said it was unclear whether insurgent killings were included in the data.
A controversial 2006 survey in the Lancet, a British medical journal, estimated that more than 600,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war, a figure more than 10 times as high as other estimates at the time. Iraq Body Count, a public database of civilian deaths since 2003, puts the number between 98,252 and 107,235.
The U.S. military figures were broken down by province and trace the arc of Iraq's sectarian war. In 2006, more than 2,100 Iraqi civilians were killed on average each month - a sharp escalation from about 239 killings a month in 2004.
Civilian killings soared in 2007, sometimes amounting to more than 3,000 a month, and slowly dropped off at the end of the year amid the surge of U.S. troops. In July 2008, 804 Iraqi civilians were killed; 488 died the next month. Over the past two years, Iraq has experienced a steady but much lower level of violence.