New Study Raises Iraq Death Toll

By Irwin Arieff
The Age (Australia)

Wednesday 13 July 2005

Nearly 40,000 Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of combat or armed violence since the US-led invasion. It is a figure considerably higher than previous estimates, a Swiss institute reported yesterday.

The public database Iraqi Body Count, by comparison, estimates that between 22,787 and 25,814 Iraqi civilians have died since the March 2003 invasion, based on reports from at least two media sources.

No official estimates of Iraqi casualties from the war have been issued, although military deaths in the US-led coalition forces are closely tracked and now total 1937.

The new estimate of more than 39,000 was made by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies and published in its latest annual small arms survey.

It builds on a study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, last October that said there had been 100,000 "excess deaths" in Iraq from all causes since March 2003.

The Swiss institute said it arrived at its estimate of Iraqi deaths resulting solely from combat or armed violence by re-examining the data gathered for the Lancet study and classifying, when it could, the cause of death.

Its 2005 small arms survey finds that conflict deaths from small arms have been vastly under-reported in the past, not just in Iraq but around the world.

The number of direct victims of such weapons was likely to have totalled 80,000 to 108,000 during 2003, compared to earlier estimates by other researchers of 27,000 to 51,000 deaths that year.

The under-counting is due mainly to a lack of hard data and an over-reliance by analysts on estimates based on government and media accounts of wars, which were often inaccurate. The number of indirect deaths around the world that can be blamed on small arms has also been underestimated, as these types of weapons typically trigger significant social disruption that leads to secondary causes of death, according to the survey.

Depending on the nature of the conflict, small arms caused between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of all direct war deaths, the study said.

Despite billions of dollars of improvements, thousands of jammers and tonnes of armour plate, the so-called improvised explosive devices in Iraq killed more Americans in May and June than in any previous months, US military figures show. Attacks in May alone reached 700, and the roadside bombs, car bombs and other devices are now the cause of more than half of US casualties in Iraq.

Another US soldier died of injuries he received when his vehicle hit a landmine west of Baghdad, the US military said yesterday. Iraqi insurgents killed 11 soldiers on Monday following a spate of seven suicide bombings on Sunday that killed at least 34 people.