The Washington Post

12,000 Iraqi civilians died in suicide attacks since 2003, Lancet report says

Along with the good news that August was the first month without any U.S. troop deaths in Iraq comes a grim statistic: More than 12,000 Iraqi civilians have died in suicide bomb attacks since the war began, according to a new study.

The report, published in the British medical journal the Lancet, says that 12,284 civilians died in 1,003 suicide bomb attacks in Iraq from March 2003 to the end of 2010, about 11 percent of the total civilian deaths from armed violence in those years. In contrast, 79 suicide attacks on coalition forces caused 200 deaths, the study said, about 4 percent of total coalition deaths during the period, as tallied by the Web site

Suicide bombs “kill significantly more Iraqi civilians than coalition soldiers,” according to the authors. “Among civilians, children are more likely to die than adults when injured by suicide bombs.”

The study was written by Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks of King’s College London, with assistance from researchers from Iraq Body Count and the University of London. The data was drawn from Iraq Body Count, a civilian research project that chronicles deaths in Iraq through a variety of means — Arab and English-language press reports, hospital records and information from nongovernmental organizations operating in Iraq. In the report, an analyst called the database “extensive but incomplete.”

The Lancet caused a stir in 2006 when it published a report saying that more than 600,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed in the conflict. That claim was widely criticized as flawed.

Gilbert Burnham, of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted in an analysis of the Lancet report that the military was at an advantage in dealing with suicide attacks.

“The military’s approach of controlling access and attacking suspicious targets has protected coalition forces in Iraq,” Burnham wrote. Meanwhile, extremists have shifted their assaults to the more vulnerable civilian population.

On Aug. 15, more than 80 people were killed across Iraq in a string of coordinated suicide bombs, car bombs and assassinations. Al-Qaeda in Iraq later vowed to carry out 100 attacks in the country to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden. Last Sunday evening, 28 worshipers were killed in a suicide bomb attack at Umm al-Qura, Baghdad’s largest Sunni mosque.

The U.S. military reported earlier this week that August was the first month since the beginning of the Iraq war when there were no deaths among U.S. troops in the country. Fourteen troops were killed in combat in June and four in July.

Annie Gowen is The Post’s India bureau chief and has reported for the Post throughout South Asia and the Middle East.

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