Monday, February 11, 2013

A History Of Violence In Iraq Through Iraq Body Count’s Archives


Iraq Body Count is a unique source, because it keeps record of individual attacks in Iraq. Using its archives, one can discern the trends in violence that have taken place since 2003. In the months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the country fell into an anarchic state full of murders, revenge killings, and a few terrorist attacks. The next year, the insurgency took off, followed by the civil war in 2005. That was shown in the increasing number of people killed by gunfire. By 2006, things went into overdrive after the bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra, Salahaddin with the highest death toll during the entire conflict. In 2007, the U.S. Surge started just as the security situation was beginning to change as the Shiite forces were overwhelming the Sunni militants. From 2009 to the present, violence is characterized by terrorism as shown by the increasing use of bombs. Last year, militants were carrying out more attacks, but were less efficient. That trend appears to be continuing into 2013. Iraq remains a violent country, but the insurgents are still largely marginalized, and are unable to change the current status quo.

The bombing of the U.N. headquarters in August 2003 was the first headline grabbing attack made by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq (U.N.)

The fall of the Baathist regime in May 2003, led Iraq to descend into chaos. There was a wave of murders and revenge killings, especially of Baathists. For example, in May alone, 265-280 bodies showed up at the Baghdad morgue, all of which met violent deaths. On May 18, two Baathist officials were shot down in Sadr City. Later in the year, sporadic terrorist attacks started, mostly perpetrated by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and his organization, Tawhid wal Jihad, Unity and Jihad. (1) On August 18, the United Nations compound in Baghdad was bombed killing 22 including U.N. Special Representative Sergio de Mello. On August 29, there was a bombing of a rally outside the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf that killed the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim and 93-95 others. On October 27, 10-12 were killed at a bombing of the Red Cross headquarters in the capital, and 14-15 died in a car bombing at a police station in Baghdad as well. On November 12, 12-13 civilians and Italian Carabinieri were killed in a bombing in Nasiriyah. Finally, on December 14, 23-25 people lost their lives when a police station in Anbar was blown up. For the year, 1.5 people died a day due to suicide or car bombings showing how rare they were. In comparison, there were an average of 15 killed per day from gunshots, which proved how shootings were far more prevalent. From May to December, there were 4,138 Iraqi casualties for an average of 19.1 deaths per day. The United States went into Iraq with no real post-war plan. When the looting and killings started after Saddam was removed, the Coalition forces did nothing. That led to a period of lawlessness, which was reflected in the type of violence seen after the invasion.


Deaths/Attacks By Day And Month 2003-2012
Month
Deaths
Deaths Per Day
Attacks
Deaths Per Attack
May 2003
547
17.6
32
17.0
Jun 2003
594
19.8
39
15.2
Jul 2003
651
21.0
36
18.0
Aug 2003
796
25.6
36
22.1
Sep 2003
561
18.7
52
10.7
Oct 2003
520
16.7
66
7.8
Nov 2003
488
16.2
57
8.5
Dec 2003
528
17.0
57
9.2
2003
4,685
19.1
N/A
N/A
Jan 2004
597
19.2
82
7.2
Feb 2004
652
22.4
91
7.1
Mar 2004
992
32.0
109
9.1
Apr 2004
1,306
43.5
88
14.8
May 2004
657
21.1
82
8.0
Jun 2004
898
29.9
138
6.5
Jul 2004
816
26.3
127
6.4
Aug 2004
863
27.8
140
6.1
Sep 2004
1,028
34.2
176
5.8
Oct 2004
1,002
32.3
185
5.4
Nov 2004
1,605
53.5
176
9.1
Dec 2004
1,023
33.0
186
5.5
2004
11,439
31.3
N/A
N/A
Jan 2005
1,176
37.9
331
3.5
Feb 2005
1,268
45.2
258
4.9
Mar 2005
854
27.5
218
3.9
Apr 2005
1,114
37.1
189
5.8
May 2005
1,323
42.6
255
5.1
Jun 2005
1,296
43.2
248
5.2
Jul 2005
1,520
49.0
274
5.5
Aug 2005
2,261
72.9
297
7.6
Sep 2005
1,414
47.1
298
4.7
Oct 2005
1,294
41.7
274
4.7
Nov 2005
1,461
48.7
275
5.3
Dec 2005
1,134
36.5
281
4.0
2005
16,115
44.1
3,198+
3.9
Jan. 06
1,543
49.7
325
4.7
Feb. 06
1,565
55.8
352
4.4
Mar. 06
1,935
62.4
411
4.7
Apr. 06
1,767
58.9
474
3.7
May 06
2,247
72.4
539
4.1
Jun. 06
2,541
84.7
535
4.7
Jul. 06
3,266
105.3
639
5.1
Aug. 06
2,818
90.9
592
4.7
Sep. 06
2,535
84.5
619
4.0
Oct. 06
2,961
95.5
589
5.0
Nov. 06
3,024
100.8
636
4.7
Dec. 06
2,824
91.0
803
3.5
2006
29,026
79.5
6,514+
4.4
Jan. 07
2,925
94.3
759
3.8
Feb. 07
2,590
92.5
589
4.3
Mar. 07
2,675
86.2
760
3.5
Apr. 07
2,486
82.8
754
3.2
May 07
2,799
90.2
943
2.9
Jun. 07
2,168
72.2
755
2.8
Jul. 07
2,658
85.7
901
2.9
Aug. 07
2,400
77.4
732
3.2
Sep. 07
1,292
43.0
583
2.2
Oct. 07
1,244
40.1
547
2.2
Nov. 07
1,084
36.1
492
2.2
Dec. 07
959
30.9
435
2.2
2007
25,280
69.2
8,250
2.9
Jan. 08
817
26.3
384
2.1
Feb. 08
1,030
35.5
323
3.1
Mar. 08
1,610
51.9
492
3.2
Apr. 08
1,262
42.0
384
3.2
May 08
792
25.5
319
2.4
Jun. 08
696
23.2
268
2.5
Jul. 08
607
19.5
374
1.6
Aug. 08
614
19.8
226
2.7
Sep. 08
557
18.5
269
2.0
Oct. 08
547
17.6
244
2.2
Nov. 08
519
17.3
205
2.5
Dec. 08
575
18.5
184
3.1
2008
9,626
26.3
3,672
2.5
Jan. 09
342
11.0
158
2.1
Feb. 09
375
13.3
154
2.4
Mar. 09
425
13.7
151
2.8
Apr. 09
505
16.8
162
3.1
May 09
339
10.9
155
2.1
Jun. 09
498
16.6
141
3.5
Jul. 09
403
13.0
176
2.2
Aug. 09
614
19.8
198
3.1
Sep. 09
332
11.0
184
1.8
Oct. 09
434
14.0
155
2.8
Nov. 09
225
7.5
131
1.7
Dec. 09
475
15.3
168
2.8
2009
4,967
13.6
1,933
2.5
Jan. 10
263
8.4
199
1.3
Feb. 10
304
10.8
112
2.7
Mar. 10
335
10.8
117
2.8
Apr. 10
382
12.7
112
3.4
May 10
379
12.2
126
3.0
Jun. 10
379
12.6
161
2.3
Jul. 10
426
13.7
148
2.8
Aug. 10
516
16.6
205
2.5
Sep. 10
254
8.4
161
1.5
Oct. 10
312
10.0
135
2.3
Nov. 10
306
10.2
138
2.2
Dec. 10
217
7.0
210
1.0
2010
4,073
11.1
1,824
2.3
Jan. 11
389
12.5
123
3.1
Feb. 11
252
8.1
105
2.4
Mar. 11
310
10.0
157
1.9
Apr. 11
289
9.6
153
1.8
May 11
381
12.2
187
2.0
Jun. 11
386
12.8
184
2.0
Jul. 11
307
9.9
160
1.9
Aug. 11
401
12.9
172
2.3
Sep. 11
397
12.8
177
2.2
Oct. 11
366
11.8
185
1.9
Nov. 11
278
9.2
129
2.1
Dec. 11
388
12.5
184
2.1
2011
4,144
11.3
1,916
2.1
Jan. 12
524
16.9
205
2.5
Feb. 12
356
12.2
185
1.9
Mar. 12
376
12.1
178
2.1
Apr. 12
392
13.0
224
1.7
May 12
304
9.8
160
1.9
Jun. 12
529
17.6
205
2.5
Jul. 12
466
15.0
182
2.5
Aug. 12
422
13.6
181
2.3
Sep. 12
396
13.2
188
2.1
Oct. 12
290
9.3
119
2.4
Nov. 12
238
7.9
109
2.1
Dec. 12
275
8.8
243
1.1
2012
4,557
12.4
2,179
2.0


In 2004, the insurgency took off, and militias began asserting themselves. A sign of that was how bombings became more common and deadly. On January 18 for example, 30-31 Iraqis were killed as they lined up to gain access to the Green Zone in Baghdad. That was followed by a group of suicide bombers setting off their devices outside the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Irbil on February 1 that left 107-109 dead. Then there were 55 fatalities from a truck bomb outside a police station in Iskandiriya, Babil on February 10. 47 army recruits blown up by a car bomb at the Muthanna Airport in Baghdad the next day. Three days later, 23 police officers were shot and killed by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades at the police headquarters in Fallujah, Anbar. That torrid pace of death and destruction would continue throughout the rest of the year. At the same time, the murders and revenge killings continued with 259-269 bodies showing up at the Baghdad morgue in January. The result of all this was an average of 5.4 people killed per day from suicide and car bombings for the year, and 19 a day from shootings. In total, there were 11,439 casualties in 2004, for an average of 31.3 per day. Militants had almost free reign throughout Iraq that year. Despite the fighting in Fallujah and against the Mahdi Army, there was no real strategy to confront the fighters. The plan was to withdraw U.S. forces, but that was postponed due to the escalating violence.

Aftermath of the bombing of the Samarra shrine, Feb. 2006, which sent the civil war into overdrive (AP)

The civil war in Iraq started in 2005, but really took off the next year. In 2005, when the Shiite religious parties took power after elections, they began placing their militiamen within the security forces. Bayan Jabr, a commander in the Supreme Council’s Badr Brigade became the Interior Minister, and immediately began recruiting entire units of his militia into the police. They began abducting, torturing, and killing Sunnis. Despite over 100,000 Coalition forces in Iraq there was a complete security vacuum in the country. The U.S. and its allies were more concerned about protecting themselves then Iraqis, and the result was that Shiite militias took matters into their own hands to protect their communities, and go after the insurgents. That was the origin of the civil war. The Shiites had the advantage of being the majority in Iraq, and running the government. In February 2006, things became worse in the aftermath of the bombing of the shrine at Samarra. Around 1,300 people were killed in the next four days. The result was that the number of casualties by shootings jumped from 30 per day in 2005 to 59 in 2006, the highest rate of the entire war. In 2005, a total of 16,115 people were killed, averaging out to 44.1 per day. That shot up to 29,026 the following year, for an average of 79.5 per day. Casualties peaked in July 2006 with 105.3 per day. Deadly attacks recorded by Iraq Body Count doubled from over 3,198 in 2005 to more than 6,514 in 2006. The devastation the Shiite forces were able to deal to Sunnis actually led to deaths declining by the end of 2006. This occurred before the United States Surge, and was a sign of the militias, army, and police overwhelming the Sunni militants.

In 2007, the Surge started, and the Americans were able to take advantage of the changing security situation in Iraq. U.S. commanders realized that many Sunni militants were ready to switch sides to try to save themselves from the onslaught of the Shiites. This led to the supporting of the Anbar Awakening, and the formation of the Sons of Iraq. The arrival of more U.S. troops, and increased operations against the insurgency and militias led to an uptick in violence initially, but deaths were already heading downwards. From January to August there were around 90 to 70 people killed per day. By September that dropped to 43.0, and by December there were an average of 30.9 deaths per day. Likewise, the number of people killed by suicide and car bombings went down to 22 per day and 42 per day due to shootings. For the year, 25,280 were killed, 69.2 per day, but the civil war was subsiding with the Shiites having thoroughly won. The United States Surge helped precipitate its end.

2008 marked the conclusion of the civil war, and the assertion of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s newfound authority. The premier launched a campaign against the Sadrists in Basra, Baghdad, and Maysan provinces. He then went after insurgents in Ninewa and Diyala. That showed that the Sunni militants were no longer an existential threat to the Shiite community. The prime minister could therefore take on his one-time supporter Moqtada al-Sadr, and kill and arrest hundreds of his militiamen. The actions in Ninewa and Diyala were to show that he was attempting to assert law and order over the country, hence the name of his new political list State of Law. Casualties went down to 9,626 killed for the year, an average of 26.3 per day. 10 were killed per day from suicide and car bombings, while 15 died from gunshots.

From 2009 to the present the remaining insurgent groups are conducting a terrorist campaign against the government. That’s shown by the fact that bombings have now surpassed shootings as the main cause of death in the country. In 2009, 8.4 people died a day from suicide and car bombings, compared to 4.7 from shootings. That trend continued for the next three years. In 2012, there were 7.3 casualties from suicide and car bombings and 5 from gunshots. Militants at first were able to increase their deadliness by turning to more explosions, which caused far more victims than small arms fire, RPGs or grenades. In 2008 for example, Iraq Body Count recorded 3,672 violent incidents, which led to an average of 2.5 deaths each. The next year, there were only 1,933 deadly attacks, but the average remained the same at 2.5 fatalities. Last year, the insurgency attempted to pick up the pace of their operations, but ironically they became less efficient. In December 2012 for instance, 275 people were killed, up from 238 in November. Militants launched 109 deadly attacks in November, with an average of 2.1 deaths per incident. In December, they carried out 243 fatal operations, but the average went down to 1.1 killed per attack.

Total Deaths In Iraq 2003-2012
May-December 2003 4,138
2004 11,439
2005 16,115
2006 29,026
2007 25,280
2008 9,626
2009 4,947
2010 4,073
2011 4,144
2012 4,568

Causes of Death Per Day 2003-2012
2003: 1.5 suicide and car bombs, 15 shootings
2004: 5.4 suicide and car bombs, 19 shootings
2005: 10 suicide and car bombs, 30 shootings
2006: 16 suicide and car bombs, 59 shootings
2007: 22 suicide and car bombs, 42 shootings
2008: 10 suicide and car bombs, 15 shootings
2009 8.4 suicide and car bombs, 4.7 shootings
2010: 7.3 suicides and car bombs, 4 shootings
2011: 6.6 suicide and car bombs, 4.8 shootings
2012 7.3 suicide and car bombs, 5 shootings

The U.S. invasion of Iraq led to the undoing of society. The occupying forces were not ready to secure the country, and the ensuing chaos opened the door to foreign terrorists, insurgents, and militias to fill the void. That quickly led to a civil war from 2005-2008 with the Shiites coming out victorious. Today there are still random shootings and improvised explosions, but the majority of deaths come from car bombings or suicide attacks. That represents the terrorist campaign that the insurgency is carrying out in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the government and restart the sectarian war. While they are picking up their deadly work they have largely failed to change the status quo. The Shiite and Sunni political parties are more concerned about their on-going rivalries over control of the government than fighting each other, and the Sunni community is in no rush to go back to war after they were already defeated. At the same time, the growing dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is allowing the militants the space to continue on with their operations. That means the current security situation with increasing bombings will continue into the foreseeable future.

FOOTNOTES 

1. Debat, Alexis, “Vivisecting the Jihad: Part Two,” National Interest, October 2004

SOURCES

Debat, Alexis, “Vivisecting the Jihad: Part Two,” National Interest, October 2004

Iraq Body Count, “10-12 by car bomb at Red Cross HQ, Baghdad,” 10/27/03
- “12-13 incl. children and Italian civilians, Nasiriyah,” 11/12/03
- “14-15, car bomb at al-Baya’a police stn., Baghdad,” 10/27/03
- “22 in bombing of UN HQ Baghdad,” 8/19/03
- “23 at police HQ in Fallujah,” 2/14/04
- “23-25 in car bomb attack on police stn., Khalidiyah,” 12/14/03
- “30-31 outside US HQ, Baghdad,” 1/18/04
- “47 army recruits by car bomb, Muthana Airport, Baghdad,” 2/11/04
- “55 killed by truck bomb in Iskandariyah,” 2/10/04
- “83-95 at Imam Ali mosque, Najaf,” 8/29/03
- “107-109 by suicide bombers in party offices in Irbil,” 2/1/04
- “259-269 additional violent deaths recorded at Baghdad morgue,” 1/1-31/04
- “265-280 additional violent deaths recorded at Baghdad morgue,” 5/1-31/03
- “Baath Party official shot dead in Sadr City, Baghdad,” 5/18/03
- “Baath Party official shot dead in Sadr City, Baghdad,” 5/18/03
- “Incidents”
- “Monthly Table”

Ollivant, Douglas, “Countering the New Orthodoxy,” New America Foundation, June 2011

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

Wing, Joel, “From Bad To Worse, How Militias Moved Into the Iraqi Police Force, And The United States Failed At Nation Building. Part Two Of An Interview With Jerry Burke, Former Advisor To The Baghdad Police And Interior Ministry,” Musings On Iraq, 2/13/12

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