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Mon 2 Jan 2012 05:18 PM

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Civilian death toll in Iraq conflict passes 114,000

Near daily bombings, attacks in 2011 spurred increase in victims, finds study

Civilian death toll in Iraq conflict passes 114,000
Thousands of Iraqis have been killed in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion

The number of civilians killed in violence in Iraq rose
slightly in 2011 from the previous year, as daily bombings and attacks
continued to claim victims almost nine years after the overthrow of Saddam
Hussein, a study showed on Monday.

A total of 4,059 civilians were killed in violent incidents
in Iraq in 2011, compared to 3,976 in 2010, rights group Iraq Body Count said
in its annual study.

That took the number of civilian deaths recorded since the
2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam and unleashed a sectarian conflict to
more than 114,000.

"The number of civilian deaths in Iraq in 2011 was
almost at the same level as in 2010 - there has now been no noticeable downward
trend since mid-2009," IBC said in a statement.

"Time will tell whether the withdrawal of US forces
will have an effect on casualty levels."

The last US troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, leaving the country
ruled by a fragile unity government, made up of parties allied to different
sectarian groups.

Hours after the exit, Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki sparked the worst political crisis in a year by announcing an
arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president on charges he led death squads.

Overall violence has decreased since the invasion - although
the figures from Iraq Body Count show a halt in that decline since 2009.

An al Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgency and Shi'ite militia are
still capable of carrying out lethal, large-scale attacks.

At least 53 people were killed in March 2011 when gunmen
laid siege to a provincial council headquarters in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.
A wave of attacks across cities in Iraq killed around 70 people in August.

The worst attack of 2011 occurred on Dec. 22 when bombings
hit mainly Shi'ite areas in Baghdad, killing at least 72 people and wounding
more than 200 others.

IBC's numbers are higher than those provided by the Iraqi
government, which put the number of civilians killed in violence in 2011 at
1,578, according to monthly data from the Health Ministry.