The latest UN estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq make grim reading. Almost 34,500 people were killed in violence last year alone. More than 36,000 were injured. The figure dipped slightly in the last two months but it gives little cause for optimism for 2007. 2006 was characterised by an upsurge in sectarian violence between Iraq’s two main communities: Shi’ites and Sunnis. Baghdad was the epicentre of this explosion of bloodshed.
Most of the more than 4,700 fatalities in the city in November and December died from gun shots. The UN says that suggests they were victims of death squad killings. The rest were mostly caused by the car bombings that are also a feature of the Iraqi capital.
The numbers are much higher than the Iraqi government’s own estimates. The UN’s Human Rights chief in Iraq, Gianni Magazzeni accused the government of failing to provide security and blamed some of the violence on militias colluding with or working inside the police and army: “Law enforcement agencies do not provide effective protection to the population of Iraq” he said, adding that “militias act in collusion with or have infiltrated” the security forces.
But the cost of the war may be even greater. British medical journal The Lancet believes since the invasion of 2003 around 655,000 people have died as a direct or indirect result of the conflict.