4,500 civilian deaths in Iraq over past year
The number of Iraqi civilians killed in violence fell by half in 2009 to about 4,500, but improvements in security have slowed and large-scale attacks took a major toll last year, a study has found.
Human rights group Iraq Body Count (IBC) put the 2009 civilian death toll in Iraq up to December 16 at 4,497, the lowest since the 2003 US invasion and less than half the 2008 toll of 9,226.
Unlike 2008, the decline in violent deaths seemed to stagnate in 2009, the group said in a report released today.
US and Iraqi officials have hailed the dramatic drop in violence from the height of sectarian killing in 2006 and 2007.
According to US military figures, violence peaked in late 2006 and early 2007 with up to about 1,700 attacks a week.
That was a far cry from late summer 2009, when about 200 attacks a week were recorded.
Still, the report noted troubling trends, such as a rise during 2009 in the toll from large-scale bombings, killing more than 50 civilians each. In 2008, 534 people were killed in nine such attacks, compared with 750 in eight attacks in 2009.
"Iraq is clearly suffering more daily violence from terrorism and instability than any other country, considerably more violence even than Afghanistan and Pakistan," said John Sloboda, the group's co-founder and spokesman.
He said that, despite Iraqi authorities' inability to stop a constant drumbeat of violence, there was "complacency among Western politicians and Western commentators who kind of imply that Iraq is solved".
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has staked his reputation on turning around Iraq's security situation, is struggling to contain recriminations arising from a series of coordinated attacks targeting government facilities, the latest of which killed up to 112 people in December.