Analysis of violent deaths of Iraqi civilians between 2003-2008

Feb 15, 2011

A paper published in this week's issue of PLoS Medicine provides the most detailed assessment thus far of civilian deaths in the course of the recent Iraq war. Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks from King's College London, UK and colleagues analyzed data from Iraq Body Count (IBC), a nongovernmental project that collates media reports of deaths of individual Iraqi civilians and cross-checks these reports with data from hospitals, morgues, nongovernmental organizations, and official figures.

The authors studied 92,614 Iraqi civilian direct deaths from the IBC database that occurred as a result of armed violence between March 20, 2003 and March 19, 2008. The authors found that most Iraqi civilian violent deaths during this time were inflicted by unknown perpetrators, primarily through extrajudicial executions that were disproportionately increased in Iraqi governorates with greater numbers of violent deaths. Unknown perpetrators also used suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, and mortars that had highly lethal and indiscriminate effects on Iraqi civilians. Deaths caused by Coalition forces of Iraqi civilians, of women and children, and of Iraqi civilians from air attacks, peaked during the invasion in 2003.

Detailed analysis of civilian deaths during wars can improve the understanding of the impact on vulnerable subgroups in the population, such as women and children. In order to assess this impact further, the researchers calculated the proportion of women and children among civilian deaths identified as men, women or children. This proportion is termed the "Dirty War Index" (DWI), and indicates the scale of indiscriminate killing in a conflict. The most indiscriminate effects on women and children in Iraq were from unknown perpetrators firing mortars (DWI = 79) and using nonsuicide vehicle bombs (DWI = 54), and from Coalition air attacks (DWI = 69). Coalition forces had a higher DWI than anti-coalition forces for all weapons combined, and for small arms gunfire, with no decrease over the study period.

The authors conclude that "Our findings on civilian deaths from perpetrators and their weapons during 5 years of the illustrate the feasibility as well as the public health and humanitarian potential of detailed tracking of war's effects on a civilian population."

In a Perspective article published the same day in PLoS Medicine, Robert Muggah from the Small Arms Survey at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland (uninvolved in the research) discusses the costs of war and this new analysis by Hicks and colleagues documenting the number of Iraqi civilian violent deaths during 2003-2008.

Explore further: Teen vaccinations up but HPV coverage remains low overall

More information: Hicks MH-R, Dardagan H, Guerrero Serdan G, Bagnall PM, Sloboda JA, et al. (2011) Violent Deaths of Iraqi Civilians, 2003: Analysis by Perpetrator, Weapon, Time, and Location. PLoS Med 8(2): e1000415. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000415

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

War affects Iraqis' health more after fleeing

Nov 03, 2008

The risk of depression is greater among Iraqi soldiers who took part in the Gulf War than among civilians. Surprisingly, on the other hand, neither of these groups showed any signs of post-traumatic stress ten years after ...

WikiLeaks to publish 15,000 more Afghan war papers

Oct 23, 2010

(AP) -- Military documents laid bare in the biggest leak of secret information in U.S. history suggest that far more Iraqis died than previously acknowledged during the years of sectarian bloodletting and ...

Global war deaths have been substantially underestimated

Jun 20, 2008

[B]Research paper: 50 years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia[/B] Globally, war has killed three times more people than previously estimated, and there is no evidence to support claims of a recent decline in ...

MIT economist analyzes troop surge in Iraq

Nov 05, 2007

Michael Greenstone, 3M Professor of Economics, has applied statistical techniques he uses in measuring the economic impact of climate change to conduct the first quantitative analysis of the U.S. troop surge ...

Recommended for you

Preterm children's brains can catch up years later

9 hours ago

There's some good news for parents of preterm babies – latest research from the University of Adelaide shows that by the time they become teenagers, the brains of many preterm children can perform almost as well as those ...

Mortality rates increase due to extreme heat and cold

9 hours ago

Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown that death rates rise in association with extremely hot weather. The heat wave in Western Europe in the summer of 2003, for example, resulted in about 22,000 extra deaths. A team ...

User comments : 0