U.N. report says 6,600 Iraqi civilians were killed in July and August
Nearly 6,600 Iraqi civilians were killed in July and August, an “unprecedented” number that is higher than any previous counts of the toll that violence is taking on the country, according to a United Nations report issued late Wednesday in Baghdad.
A “spike in sectarian and revenge attacks” in July was the primary cause of the 3,590 violent civilian deaths in July, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said in its latest human rights report.
July’s number was the highest on record for a single month in Iraq. In August, 3,009 violent deaths were recorded by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, the Baghdad morgue, and other hospitals and reporting agencies throughout the country. (In recent months, some U.S. military officials have said they believe the Baghdad morgue figures are inflated.)
“Particularly abhorrent are terrorist attacks against markets and mosques and the killing of religious pilgrims,” the report reads, blaming “the growth of militias and the emergence of organized crime, resulting in indiscriminate killings of civilians, with hundreds of bodies appearing throughout the country bearing signs of severe torture and execution-style killing.”
According to the report, the number of civilian deaths in Baghdad decreased by 25 percent between July and August.
In recent weeks, U.S. and Iraqi forces have embarked on a wide-ranging mission — dubbed Operation Together Forward — to halt sectarian violence in the capital. The report said the reduction in Baghdad killings “may be attributed to a degree of improved security” from the operation.
The majority of the deaths were recorded in Baghdad, U.N. officials said, though an increasing number of deaths were recorded in other cities such as Mosul and Diyala province.
“Extra-judicial executions of former members of the armed forces or those associated with the former regime and the targeting of judges and lawyers because of their work have continued,” the report found.
“Intimidation, threats and kidnappings for ransom continue to affect the life of ordinary Iraqis. Such incidents have a sectarian connotation and many continue to be carried out by criminal gangs sometimes wearing police or Special Forces uniforms.”
In July and August, 108 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, according to Pentagon figures. Based on news reports, an estimated 2,500 Iraqi security forces were killed in the same months.
While acknowledging that violence in some areas, such as Anbar province, prevented a full count, the U.N. report related grim details of the killings, attributed to both Shiite militias and Sunni extremists.
“Detainees’ bodies show signs of beating using electrical cables, wounds in different parts of their bodies, including in the head and genitals, broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns,” the report read.
“Bodies … often bear signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones, missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails.”
A previous U.N. report in late July, said 5,818 civilians had been killed in Iraq in May and June 2006. That same report put the total number of violent civilian deaths in Iraq since the 2003 invasion at more 50,000.