Past year accounts for half Iraqi civilian deaths
Tom Clifford in Dubai
There is a surge in Iraq, but it is a surge in deaths.
The year to March was the worst 12 months for civilian fatalities since the invasion. Almost half of all violent civilian deaths since the March 2003 invasion began have occurred in that period, according to figures compiled by Iraq Body Count, which uses media reports to track the number of deaths.
'All these deaths have been documented and verified by IBC,' Hamit Dardagan, principal researcher of the British-based organisation said. 'We believe the figures are higher as not all deaths can be verified.'
During the six-week invasion phase, named 'Shock and Awe', at least 7,400 civilians were killed. Since then, the number of civilian deaths annually has risen markedly.
There were 6,332 reported civilian deaths in the months following the invasion in year one, or 20 per day; 11,312 in year two, 55 per cent up on the first year; 14,910 in year three (32 per cent up on year two); and a staggering 26,540 deaths in year four (78 per cent up on year three and averaging 74 deaths per day).
Not counting the 7,400 invasion-phase deaths, four times as many people were killed in the last year as in the first.
'No accurate figures are compiled by military forces in Iraq, as required by international law, which apart from recording deaths means that matters like compensation cannot be dealt with,' Mr Dardagan said.
By the end of year four, about one in 160 Baghdad residents had been violently killed.
Adult males are the most at risk. The majority of casualties throughout the nation are among men, who are the most frequently targeted and, since the invasion, the most exposed.
The overall national breakdown of deaths shows that about a third of the civilian population - adult men - has borne about 90 per cent of deaths.
The situation is not getting better.
'Insurgent attacks continue, despite the dispatch of more than 20,000 additional US troops. Insurgents are confronting the surge strategy head-on, killing civilians daily,' said Lily Hamourtziadou, a researcher for IBC.
'Over 2,500 civilians were killed in the month since the launch of the [US troop] surge on 14 February, by insurgents, US troops, death squads, al-Qaeda and various unknown attackers,' she said.
A reading of the figures kept by Iraq Body Count shows that year four was the worst in several ways:
Almost half (44 per cent) of all violent civilian deaths after the initial invasion phase occurred in the just-ended fourth year of the conflict
Mortar attacks that kill civilians have quadrupled in the past year (from 73 to 289)
Massive bomb blasts that kill more than 50 people have nearly doubled in the past year (from nine to 17)
Fatal suicide bombs, car bombs, and roadside bombing attacks have doubled in the past year (from 712 to 1,476)
At least one in 160 of Baghdad's 6.5 million population has been violently killed since the beginning of the war, representing 64 per cent of deaths recorded so far