'25,000 Iraqis killed since US invasion'
ABOUT 25,000 people have been killed and 42,000 injured in Iraq by coalition forces, insurgents and criminal gangs since the start of the war in March 2003, according to an independent study published yesterday.
The figure is dramatically lower than the hotly contested previous estimate published in the Lancet medical journal last year, which asserted that as many as 100,000 had died.
The new figure, which covers civilians, police and army recruits, is also consistent with the Iraqi health ministry figures for the last year.
British and United States forces have refused to be drawn on the Iraq death toll, insisting that it has not been possible to come up with reliable data.
The Foreign Office described the figures yesterday as "misleading", but said any deaths were unacceptable.
But the Iraq Body Count group, which published the new study, claims that it has been able to come up with a figure by analysing media reports.
The group claims that the largest proportion of the death toll - 37 per cent, or about 9,250 people - was inflicted by coalition forces. It blamed a further 36 per cent - about 9,000 deaths - on criminal gangs, and just 9.5 per cent, or about 2,375 deaths, on the actions of insurgents.
"Unknown agents" were blamed for 11 per cent of deaths. The Foreign Office said it found the insurgency figure implausible.
Iraq Body Count said its findings - which also claimed that one-third of deaths came during the war-fighting period - provided "a unique insight into the human consequences of the US-led invasion".
In its dossier, it said: "Leaders who commit troops to wars of intervention have seriously diminishing excuses for failing to weigh the human costs."
The toll does not include what the group describes as "serving Iraqi military or combatant deaths", for which it says there are no reliable accounts, nor coalition deaths, for which figures are available. The US death toll now stands at 1,766, and the British at 92 troops.
The security situation in Iraq makes it difficult to compile an accurate toll of civilian deaths and injuries.
However, the relatively small number of deaths attributed to insurgent action does not appear to tally with the situation on the ground, where suicide attacks and bombings are rife, with about 40 this month alone.
Iraq's health ministry suggests 6,629 deaths between April 2004 and this April.
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