Official: 150,000 Iraqis Killed Since 2003

Iraqis clean the scene following an explosion in central Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006. Bomb attacks on markets in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad killed at last 16 people, among 38 Iraqis killed or found dead across the country on Thursday in the latest outbreak of sectarian violence. AP

About 150,000 Iraqis have been killed by insurgents since the U.S.-led invasion more than three years ago, a senior Iraqi official said Thursday.

For every person killed about three have been wounded in violence since the war started in March 2003, Iraq's Health Minister Ali al-Shemari told reporters in Vienna.

The 150,000 — three times more than other estimates — was the first overall casualty figure for the war to be released by the Iraqi government, which took office on May 20.

Al-Shemari did not explain how he arrived at the figure or say whether that number included Iraqi soldiers and police, as well as civilians. Also unclear was if it included Iraqis killed in sectarian violence or only in insurgent attacks. But he said the count was of "innocent" victims, suggesting civilians only.

In October, the British medical journal The Lancet published a controversial study contending nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war — a far higher death toll than other estimates. The study, which was dismissed by President Bush and other U.S. officials as not credible, was based on interviews of households and not a body count.

Al-Shemari disputed that figure on Thursday.

"Since three and a half years, since the change of the Saddam regime, some people say we have 600,000 are killed. This is an exaggerated number. I think 150 is OK," he said.

Other estimates, largely based on body counts or media reports, have held that about 50,000 Iraqi civilians have died in the conflict.

A private group called Iraqi Body Count says it has recorded between 46,863 and 51,698 Iraqi civilians killed by military intervention in Iraq. The group says that includes civilian deaths due to U.S.-led military action as well as insurgents and other violence.

Al-Shemari, a Shiite ally of anti-U.S. radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose militia has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence, focused on insurgent attacks, saying they were exhausting his ministry's finances and that hospitals needed aid.

"We need help, we need donations," he said.

Accurate figures on the number of people who have died in the Iraq conflict have long been the subject of debate. Police and hospitals often give widely conflicting figures of those killed in major bombings.

In addition, death figures are reported through multiple channels by government agencies that function with varying efficiency.

In other Iraq news:

  • An Army lieutenant who challenged the Bush administration's reasons for going to war in Iraq and then refused to deploy to the country will face a military trial, the Army said. Fort Lewis commander Lt. Gen. James Dubik on Thursday recommended that the Army proceed with a general court-martial against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada. Watada, 28, was charged with missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials for comments he made about President George W. Bush.

  • Bomb attacks on markets in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad killed at least 16 people, among 38 Iraqis killed or found dead across the country on Thursday in the latest outbreak of sectarian violence.

  • Iraqis on Thursday cheered the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, blaming him for policy failures and scandals they say helped spawn the daily sectarian carnage that continue to wrack their nation, more than three years after the U.S. invasion. Rumsfeld acknowledged Thursday progress in the Iraq war has not been going "well enough or fast enough" in his first extended remarks since announcing his resignation under political pressure.

  • October was a particularly bloody month for Iraqis, with more than 1,200 killed, and November so far looks to be just as bad. At least 66 Iraqis were killed on Wednesday, although that is likely much lower than the true figure since many deaths go unreported. Since this summer, the United Nations has bumped its daily death toll estimate to 100 per day.

    • Robb Todd

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