Friday, August 13, 2010

Number Of Iraqi Deaths Increased In July 2010

All four of the major organizations that track deaths in Iraq reported an increase in July 2010. Iraq’s ministries had the largest count with 535 killed. That consisted of 396 civilians, 89 police, and 50 soldiers. That was the highest number by Baghdad since May 2008 when it recorded 563 deaths. The Associated Press had the lowest count with 356 casualties for July, which was the highest they had noted since 383 killed in December 2009. That left Iraq Body Count, which consistently has the highest death count, in the middle with 469. Icasualties was on track to have the lowest amount as usual, but then added 264 deaths at the very end of the month based upon news about the Iraqi Ministries’ high figure for a total of 534. All together that averaged out to 15.2 deaths per day, a dramatic increase from the first six months of the year that averaged 9.2 killed a day.

Monthly Death Counts
Month Iraq Body Count Icasualties Iraqi Ministries Associated Press 
Avg. Deaths Per Day 
Jan. 10 

The amount of security incidents in July was actually lower than previous months, but there were a number of high profile, mass casualty attacks. On July 8, 48 Iraqis were killed and 380 wounded in a series of bombs aimed at Shiite pilgrims traveling through Baghdad. Ten days later two suicide bombers attacked Sons of Iraq waiting to receive their paychecks in the Radwaniya and Yusifiya neighborhoods of the capital, killing 65 and wounding 60 others. That was followed by two car bombings on a checkpoint outside of Karbala on July 26 that left 19 dead and 47 wounded. Finally, on July 29 five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) went off in Adhamiyah, Baghdad killing 16 and wounding 14. All together these attacks resulted in 158 dead, and 501 wounded. Adding that number to the average deaths in the first six months of 2010 accounts for the large increase in deaths in July.

Iraqi Security Incidents - Dec. 09 to August 10
(Click on image for larger view)
Even with the growth of casualties in July and the inability of Iraq’s politicians to put together a government five months after parliamentary elections, the security situation is still much better in 2010 than in previous years. Attacks and deaths have seen a steady decline since the end of 2008. From 2003 to 2007 12,000-27,000 Iraqis died each year according to Iraq Body Count. That dropped to 9,221 in 2008, and then went down again to 4,645 in 2009. If casualties remained at the same level this year, Iraq would end up with approximately 3,900 deaths in 2010. That still makes Iraq one of the most violent countries in the world. For comparison, the United Nations recorded 1,271 civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2010, the highest amount in several years. That averages out to 211.8 per month. Iraq’s ministries reported 1,376 civilians killed during that same period, for an average of 229.3 per month. Iraq’s lowest death count was still above Afghanistan’s most deadly period. Unfortunately, the country is likely to see several hundred deaths per month for the foreseeable future as Iraq’s militants have proven their resilience and adaptability.


Arnoldy, Ben, “Afghanistan war: UN report blames insurgents for rise in civilian deaths,” Christian Science Monitor, 8/10/10

Associated Press, “High Iraq deaths cast doubt on U.S. stability talk,” 8/2/10
- “Iraq: Key figures since the war began,” 8/2/10
- “July deadliest month for Iraqis in 2 years with more than 500 dead,” 7/31/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “16 killed, 14 wounded in Baghdad blasts,” 7/29/10
- “43 killed, 40 wounded in Radhwaniya suicide bombing,” 7/18/10
- “48 people killed, 380 wounded in Baghdad blasts – BOC,” 7/8/10
- “52 casualties of Youssifiya blast – BOC,” 7/18/10
- “Karbala blast casualties up to 19 killed, 47 wounded,” 7/26/10

BBC, “Afghan civilian toll rises due to insurgent attacks: UN,” 8/10/10

Faraj, Salam, “Iraqi death toll rises markedly in February,” Agence France Presse, 3/1/10

Iraq Body Count

Olive Group, “Weekly Security Report for 12 August 2010,” Iraq Business News, 8/12/10

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “July Deaths In Dispute As U.S., Iraqi Figures Differ,” 8/1/10

Reuters, “Iraq civilian death toll rises sharply in April,” 5/1/10

UNAMA, “Afghanistan Mid Year Report 2010 Protection of Civilians In Armed Conflict,” August 2010

Yang Yang, “Iraq’s Monthly Death Toll Rises Slightly in May,” Xinhua, 6/1/10


Anonymous said...

The Icasualties approach here is kind of strange for two reasons. First, it seems like they don't usually add on a remainder based on the official government figures, but for some reason they do this just for July, making their trend line arbitrary and mostly meaningless. I think the last time i remember them doing something like this was for August and September 2006, which makes it look like there was somehow a doubling of deaths just for those two months. But this is of course just an illusion from adding a big remainder from official figures just for those two months alone, and not doing this for the surrounding months.

The second problem is that Icasualties adds the big July remainder from the Ministry figures all to their "Civilian" column, making Icasualties wind up with 497 "civilians" compared with only 37 ISF (Iraqi Security Forces). But the Ministry figures they use to add this big remainder has only 396 civilians itself, with 139 being ISF.

Possibly compounding this problem, Icasualties seems to classify deaths of Sahwa members as "ISF" but it's unclear to me how the Ministry figures would classify them. It seems like probably civilians since they are not formally security force members of the government (police or military).

Joel Wing said...

Icasualties tells you that the actual number of deaths is much higher than what they report. I haven't tried looking for their sources for a while but when they listed them it was exclusively western sources. If you compare those to things like aswat al-Iraq the English language press misses a large amount of incidents. Iraq Body Count is considered the best source and even then probably misses a fair amount of incidents outside Baghdad.

Anonymous said...

"Icasualties tells you that the actual number of deaths is much higher than what they report."

Yes but that is kind of beside my point here, which was, first, about trends over time, not the absolute number of total deaths. If you arbitrarily grab extra deaths from Ministry figures one month here or there and ignore them everywhere else, you wind up with an irrelevant trend line based on arbitrary methods. In fact you could make the trend line look almost any way you wanted by where and when you choose to exclude or include such things. I noted a similar problem with this for August and September 2006, but the same thing happens with February and March 2007. Suddenly you have what looks like a big jump where the number of deaths almost doubles just for those two months, and then goes back to the previous level. But again this is just an artifact of arbitrarily adding in a big figure from the Health Ministry just for those two months and not doing the same for other months.

Then the second problem was they've added the Ministry figure almost in its entirety to "Civilians" to get up to 497, but the Ministry figures themselves say only 396 were civilian, with 139 being ISF.

So my point was, they've created a distortion in the trend over time here and on top of it have misclassified deaths between Civilian and ISF. Neither of these problems is really relevant to whether the actual total number is higher than what they report.

Joel Wing said...


I caught what you wrote in the first post about inconsistencies with icasualties, and including the Iraqi ministries numbers for July was especially arbitrary.

My point was I would not look at them if I was trying to figure out Iraqi casualties to begin with because they miss so much.

Overall, if you look at the 4 organizations that follow deaths (Iraq Body Count, icasualties, AP, Iraq's ministries) they had the exact same pattern for all of 2009. For example, from April to Dec. 09 they all showed an up and down pattern each month. In 2010 they've been going in different directions month to month.

You can see a chart comparison of Iraq deaths by the organizations from the 2nd half of 2008 to the end of 2009 here:

Joel Wing said...

I just did a chart comparison between the Brookings Institute, Iraq Body Count and icasualties. The three follow the same overall trend from 2005 to 2010 with 2 exceptions, which you pointed out in Aug. and Sep. 06 and Feb. and Mar. 07.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I just don't get the logic behind what they're doing. Either do that every month or don't do it at all. It's kind of nonsensical otherwise.

Joel Wing said...


This is just pure speculation on my part but perhaps because icasualties relies upon Western news for their numbers, for those months in 06, 07, and 10 there was just a lot of stories about a sharp increase in Iraqi deaths so they decided to add them even though it completely threw off their overall numbers and trends because it would mean they'd have to ignore certain stories about Iraqi deaths.