Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Deaths See Large Drop In Iraq From January To February 2012


After a series of articles warning that violence in Iraq was increasing, and that the country might be on the verge of a new civil war, the number of deaths was cut nearly in half in February 2012. Rather than marking a new trend in security, January’s high casualties were simply a result of the large number of targets available during the Shiite pilgrimage of Arbayeen to Karbala, and insurgents trying to make a statement after the U.S. troop withdrawal in December 2011. With only one mass casualty bombing, and an especially bloody day when militants were able to carry out attacks in seven provinces, February returned to the norm of monthly casualties.

Two of the three organizations that record Iraqi deaths saw a large drop from January to February. Iraq Body Count’s early total for February was 278, compared to 464 killed in January, a 40% drop. The United Nations’ Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit recorded 229 deaths in February, down from 500 in January, a decline of 54%. Only the Iraqi government showed no real change with Iraq’s Health, Defense, and Interior Ministries claiming 150 people were killed in February, only one less than January. Baghdad has consistently had the lowest death figures for months now. The extremely low death count for January after there were four deadly bombings that month that killed 186 people alone according to press accounts, highlights the fact that either the Ministries are not getting all of the casualty figures or they are purposely keeping them down for political reasons. Currently the security portfolio is under the control of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. All together, all three numbers averaged out to 219 deaths for the month, and 7.5 deaths per day. Those were both below the averages for 2011, which stood at 298 casualties per month and 9.7 a day, and far below January’s averages of 369 killed, and 11.9 per day.

Deaths In Iraq 2011-2012
Month
Iraq Body Count
Iraqi Ministries
United Nations
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths
Jan. 2011
387
259
265
303
9.7
Feb.
250
167
267
228
8.1
Mar.
307
247
268
274
8.8
Apr.
285
211
279
258
8.6
May
378
177
319
291
9.3
Jun.
385
271
424
360
12.0
Jul.
305
259
381
315
10.1
Aug.
398
239
455
364
11.7
Sep.
394
185
405
328
10.9
Oct.
355
258
416
343
11.0
Nov.
272
187
264
241
8.0
Dec.
371
155
313
279
9.0
TOTALS
4,125
1,591
4,056
-
-
2011 Mo. Avg.
343
217
338
298
9.7
Jan. 2012
458
151
500
369
11.9
Feb.
278
150
229
219
7.5

Attacks In Iraq 2011-2012
Month
Attacks
Avg. Daily Attacks
Jan. 2011
416
13.4
Feb.
358
12.7
Mar.
565
18.2
Apr.
483
16.1
May
561
18.0
Jun.
545
18.1
Jul.
404
13.0
Aug.
376
12.1
Sep.
283
9.1
Oct.
406
13.0
Nov.
268
8.0
Dec.
293
9.4
TOTALS
4,958
-
2011 Mo. Avg.
413.1
13.4
Jan. 2012
330
10.6
Feb.
278
9.5
Scene of the bombing outside the Baghdad Police Academy, Feb. 19, 2012 (AFP)
Whether Iraq’s casualty numbers go up or down are largely shaped by the number of large bombings that occur. In February, there was only one such incident, when a suicide car bomber struck the Baghdad Police Academy on February 19, which left 19 casualties. There was also an especially bloody day on February 23 when insurgents were able to carry out attacks in 17 cities across seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces. That resulted in 83 deaths, and hundreds wounded, coming from five roadside bombs, four car bombs, two shootings, a grenade attack, and a drive by shooting in Baghdad, three car bombs and two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Babil, four IEDs, two car bombs, two shootings, and several roadside bombings in Diyala, three car bombs and shootings in Salahaddin, a shooting, and IED in Anbar, two mortar shells in Ninewa, and two car bombs in Tamim. That compared to four major attacks in January that resulted in 186 deaths. In total, there were 278 attacks last month, compared to 330 in January, a 15% drop. That broke down to 52 in Diyala, 47 in Baghdad and Ninewa each, 32 in Babil, 28 in Tamim, 26 in Salahaddin, 18 in Anbar, six in Qadisiyah, four in Basra and Wasit each, three in Dhi Qar, Irbil, and Maysan, and one in Dohuk, Karbala, Muthanna, Najaf, and Sulaymaniya respectively. That meant every single governorate saw violence, but 224 of those incidents, 80% of the total were in just seven of them. As usual, IEDs were the weapons of choice, accounting for 170 attacks, followed by 57 shootings, 29 car bombs, 13 grenades being thrown, and nine rockets/mortars. The main difference between February and January was that the latter was politically significant, and was the month of Arbayeen when thousands of people from Iraq and Shiite communities around the world travel to Karbala. That meant January was a target rich environment with Shiite pilgrims nearly everywhere in the country. Militants also wanted to make a statement that they were still active and deadly after the United States withdrew its forces. That’s why there were so many mass casualty attacks in Iraq at the beginning of the year. Iraqi insurgents have also not been able to maintain this pace of operations for more than a few months. They probably expended most of their supplies, and need a matter of weeks to reload before they can carry out a large number of attacks once again.
The leftover of a car bomb in Baquba, Diyala on Feb. 23, the deadliest day of the month when 83 people were killed across the country (Reuters)
Deadliest Days In February 2012
Feb. 19 – 28 killed total
            - 19 killed in bombing of Baghdad Police Academy
Feb. 23 – 83 killed total
            - 33 killed in Baghdad
            - 19 killed in Diyala
            - 15 killed in Salahaddin
            - 7 killed in Tamim
            - 5 killed in Babil
- 3 killed in Ninewa
            - 1 killed in Anbar

Deadliest Days In January 2012
Jan. 5 – 77 killed total
    - 28 killed in Baghdad
    - 45 killed in Dhi Qar
Jan. 14 – 68 killed total
    - 65 killed in Basra
Jan. 27 – 41 killed total
    - 35 killed in Baghdad

February 2012 Attacks By Province
Diyala 52
Baghdad 47
Ninewa 47
Babil 32
Tamim 28
Salahaddin 26
Anbar 18
Qadisiyah 6
Basra 4
Wasit 4
Dhi Qar 3
Irbil 3
Maysan 3
Dohuk 1
Karbala1
Muthanna 1
Najaf 1
Sulaymaniya 1

Types of Attacks
170 IEDs
57 small arms fire
29 car bombs
13 grenades
9 rockets/mortars

The press has a bad tendency to focus upon the violence in Iraq. When they do, they often do not place the latest incident in much context of whether attacks and casualties are going up or down. January’s media coverage was especially egregious, because as the month went on, the tone became more and more dire with warning after warning about Iraq returning to civil war, and sectarian tensions increasing. The fact that the month’s casualties and attacks were not much higher than the top figures seen in 2011 for example, was not noted. The faulty predictions were put into stark contrast when February’s counts were released, and deaths and attacks were both down. Unfortunately, the next time there is a string of big bombings in Iraq, media outlets are likely to repeat the same mistakes they made at the beginning of this year.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “150 Iraqis killed in February attacks: ministries,” 3/1/12

Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “Security In Iraq”

Iraq Body Count

Reuters, “Security developments in Iraq, Feb 23,” 2/23/12

No comments:

Troubles Of The Tribal And Local Hashd In Anbar And Ninewa

As more Iraqi territory has been freed the government has run into a growing problem, how to secure it all. Most of th...