British Report Puts Iraqi Deaths at 25,000
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Getting accurate information about the human cost of the Iraq War has been difficult. Today two independent groups released a statistical survey based on media reports. It shows that some 25,000 Iraqis have been killed in the two years since the war began; that does not include active members of the Iraqi armed forces. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports that the analysis indicates that US-led forces killed more civilians than soldiers.
ANTHONY KUHN reporting:
The two groups that undertook the report were the Oxford Research Group and an organization called Iraq Body Count. They based it on some 10,000 English-language media reports. At a press briefing today, the survey's lead author, John Sloboda, talked about the fatalities.
Mr. JOHN SLOBODA (Survey's Lead Author): There were almost 25,000 of them, which is one in every thousand of the population. We have age and gender information on over half the victims. These show that 9 percent were adult women, and another 9 percent were children under the age of 18. Among the children killed, a quarter of them were female.
KUHN: The survey found that police were the most common targets, and 45 percent of the victims were killed in Baghdad. Explosives caused more than half of the civilian deaths, and most of these were bombs dropped by US and allied warplanes. Gunfire from criminals killed nearly 40 percent of the victims. A third of the casualties occurred during the invasion phase of the war before May 1st, 2003. Sloboda said US-led forces killed four times as many civilians are insurgents did.
Mr. SLOBODA: Victims killed by US-led forces alone remain the largest single category of civilian deaths at 37 percent of all known deaths.
KUHN: It would be hard for any survey to paint a complete picture, and this one raises questions about its findings and methodology. The finding that suicide bombings accounted for only 4 percent of the killings belies the frequent accounts of car bombings coming out of Iraq. In Iraq, coalition spokesman Brigadier General Don Alston said that coalition troops try to limit civilian casualties under very difficult conditions.
Brigadier General DON ALSTON (Coalition Spokesperson): The conditions have been set by terrorists, and our troops have the procedures to make the right decision--we hope all the time. But when those circumstances lead to death, those are thoroughly investigated.
KUHN: The Pentagon has previously said that the Iraq conflict has been one of the most precisely targeted wars in history. It says there's no way to assess the accuracy of independent surveys. And General Tommy Franks famously summed up US policy on Iraqi casualties when he said, `We don't do body counts.' This, says John Sloboda, is one of the reasons that he started his research in the first place.
Mr. SLOBODA: Proper attention to Iraqi casualties can only be of benefit. First and foremost, it displays a proper respect for the dead and the bereaved. Secondly, it provides data and medical relief. And, finally, it provides information on the direct human impact of military intervention.
KUHN: He says his ultimate aim is to make it a requirement of international law that warring parties tally civilian casualties and report them to the UN Security Council. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, London.
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Correction July 27, 2005
Former Gen. Tommy Franks was referring to U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, nor Iraq, when he said, "We don't do body counts."