December gains promising, but 2007 was deadliest year in Iraq
It ended on a note of encouragement, but 2007 in Iraq was a year marked by violence and death.
Overall, 2007 was the bloodiest year of the war, according to figures released Monday by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. It said 16,232 civilians died last year, compared to 12,320 in 2006. American troops fared no better: the Los Angeles Times reports that at least 899 American troops perished, the highest annual toll since the invasion began in March 2003.
Abd Hadi Hussein, a Shiite Muslim resident of Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood told the Times that "I remember 2007 was the explosions year." He recalled helping a woman who had been injured in a bombing last August. "She was completely burned, and people could not recognize whether she was a man or a woman. She kept asking about her little girl. But then the woman died. This memory I can't remove from my mind.”
Despite the high amounts of violence, December emerged as possibly the least deadly month since the war started. Only 21 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq during December, according to Department of Defense figures released by the independent website icasualties.org, marking the lowest average daily death tally yet. To compare, 112 troops died in December of 2006.
Civillians casualties remained lower as well. The Iraqi Ministry of Health said nationwide, 481 civilians died in December war-related violence -- bombings, mortar attacks and sectarian slayings.
The lower number of fatalities among Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops coincided with the completion of an American military troop buildup in June. But military leaders were wary to celebrate the recent downturn in violence as proof of irreversible progress. In fact, they warned that security gains have created opportunities for new challenges, “some of which could spawn fresh violence as Iraqis jostle to reclaim their lives.”
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