(Reuters) - Five years after U.S. and British forces swept into Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, many Iraqis are asking if the violence and upheaval that turned their lives upside down was worth it.
Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in sectarian violence which gripped Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
A recent fall in civilian casualties has been hailed by Iraqi and U.S. officials as proof that counter-insurgency tactics adopted last year have been working and Iraq is safer.
However February’s civilian casualty figures spiked after a series of attacks blamed by the U.S. military on al Qaeda, including two female bombers who killed 99 people at two pet markets in Baghdad on February 1.
Here are some details on casualties in Iraq.
* IRAQI CIVILIANS:
-- The latest tolls from the widely cited human rights group Iraq Body Count (IBC) show that up to around 89,300 civilians have been killed since 2003. Of those, some 22,586 to 24,159 civilian deaths were recorded in 2007 through the Web site’s own monitoring of media and official reports.
-- With two exceptions (May and July 2007), the 2007 civilian death toll in Baghdad has fallen steadily month on month, according to Iraq Body Count. By December 2007 this had fallen to 246, about one-seventh of the starting January total of 1,683.
-- In contrast, the monthly toll outside Baghdad increased substantially between January (1,112) and August (1,604), before a steep drop to around 700 per month and below for September through December, its figures show.
-- Despite the sharp rise in February 2008, the figure for last month of 633 killed was still dramatically lower than the 1,645 civilians who died violently in the same month a year ago.
-- Despite the decline in the latter part of 2007, Iraqi figures showed that more civilians died overall in 2007 (16,232) than in 2006 (12,360).
-- This is still down on 2006 figures. Iraq Body Count said that up to 27,519 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2006.
* U.S. MILITARY:
-- U.S. military deaths have reached 3,983 since the invasion in 2003. According to icasualties.org, an independent Web site that tracks military deaths, there was a steady decline in the second half of 2007. Nevertheless 2007 was the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq with 901 killed, underscoring a new counter-insurgency strategy of moving troops off large, relatively safe bases and into small neighborhood garrisons.
Sources: Reuters/ www.icasualties.org *
* = www.icasualties.org uses official information from Centcom or the Department of Defense. The U.S-led military coalition toll includes casualties from Iraq and the surrounding area where troops are stationed.
** = www.iraqbodycount.net (IBC), run by academics and peace activists, based on reports from media sources. The IBC says on its Web site the figure underestimates the true number of casualties.
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit
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