US disputes Iraq numbers showing massive spike in violence
BAGHDAD — The US military on Sunday took the unusual step of refuting Iraqi figures released a day earlier which showed July was the single deadliest month in the war-torn country since May 2008.
The American decision to release their own toll came after the Iraqi figures showed a sharp upswing in the level of violence nearly five months after parliamentary elections which have yet to result in the formation of a new government and as the United States carries out a major troop withdrawal.
While overall casualty tolls are compiled by Iraq’s ministries of health, interior and defence and released every month, the US military usually does not publicly contest them.
“USF-I (United States Forces-Iraq) refutes the reported figures of violence that claims that July 2010 is ‘the deadliest month in Iraq since 2008′,” the US military said in the statement.
According to US data, 222 people were killed in Iraqi violence last month, less than half the Iraqi figure, and added that 782 people were wounded.
“The claim that July 2010 was the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008 is incorrect,” the statement noted.
Major General Stephen Lanza, spokesman for US forces in Iraq, did not immediately respond to emailed questions regarding why July’s figures were contested but not those for previous months.
Saturday’s figures from the Iraqi government put the death toll at 535 overall — 396 civilians, 89 policemen and 50 soldiers — with an additional 1,043 people wounded.
That figure was the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence.
The dispute over the latest figures come as the US military carries out a steady drawdown of its forces in Iraq, before it concludes combat operations in the country at the end of this month.
There are about 65,000 US soldiers currently stationed in Iraq, but that is set to drop to 50,000 by September 1. All US troops must withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, in line with the terms of a US-Iraq pact.
July’s data released by the Iraqi ministries was significantly higher than that for June, when 284 people died, and is nearly double the toll from the same month a year ago, when 275 people were killed.
“We receive, as usual, the number of civilian victims from the ministry of health, the number of policemen from the ministry of interior and we compile the number of soldiers,” a defence ministry official said in response to the US statement.
“It’s the same procedure every month,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
A string of attacks against Shiite pilgrims in a three-day period up to July 8 killed 70 people in Baghdad, as tens of thousands commemorated the death of Musa Kadhim, the seventh of 12 revered imams in Shiite Islam, in 799 AD.
On July 18, a suicide bomber targeting anti-Qaeda militiamen being paid their wages killed 45 people west of Baghdad, and left 46 others wounded, the country’s single deadliest attack in more than two months.
Three days later, a car bomb killed 30 people and injured 46 near a mosque in a predominantly Shiite area of the mixed city of Baquba, north of the Iraqi capital.
Twin car bombs killed a further 21 people in the Shiite holy city of Karbala on July 26, while four others died in a suicide attack on the Al-Arabiya television station’s offices in Baghdad.
US and Iraqi officials have warned of the dangers of an upsurge in violence if negotiations on forming a new government drag on, giving insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilise the country.
Nearly five months since the March 7 general election which gave no single bloc an overall parliamentary majority, the two lists which won the most seats are still bickering over who should be the next prime minister.