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Sun 28 Dec 2008 09:45 AM

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Iraqi civilian deaths fell sharply in 2008 - survey

Dramatic decline in fatalities especially in the Iraqi capital, says UK-based NGO.

The number of civilian deaths from violence in Iraq fell sharply this year to an estimated 25 per day, down by two thirds from the high two years ago, according to voluntary group Iraq Body Count.

In 2007, an average 67 people died per day while in 2006, the most violent year for civilians in Iraq during the war, 76 people lost their lives each day, the British-based non-governmental organisation said.

Iraq Body Count, which lists the number of civilians killed by coalition forces, militias and criminals since the 2003 US-led invasion, said the current level of violence is comparable to the period between May 2003 and December 2004.

So far in 2008, between 8,315 and 9,028 people have been killed, a sharp drop compared to the 25,774 to 27,599 killed in 2006 and 22,671 to 24,295 who died in 2007, according to Body Count figures.

However, the total number of civilian deaths since the US-led invasion in 2003 which toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein is approaching 100,000, the group said, estimating the aggregate figure at between 90,133 and 98,399 people.

The range of figures in the group's tables "accounts for residual uncertainty about civilian status, the final death toll in larger incidents, and the possible double-counting of some deaths," it said.

The most dramatic drop in violence this year occurred in Baghdad, Iraq Body Count said.

For the first time since 2003, a minority of the deaths were in the Iraqi capital, which accounted for 32 percent of deaths in 2008 compared to 54 percent in 2006 and 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of civilians killed by car bombs and suicide attacks declined to 10 a day this year compared to 21 per day in 2007 and 16 a day two years ago.

Amongst those killed by bullets or executed, an average of 14 civilians died per day, compared to 40 a day last year and 56 per day in 2006.

Police remained a target of insurgents this year with 928 dying, but still a reduction of more than half from 2007, when 2,065 died, and from 1,891 in 2006.

The Sahwa or Awakening, groups of Sunni fighters who turned against former allies Al-Qaeda in late 2006, have paid a heavy price for their newfound loyalty to the United States military, the report said.

It said 549 of them died between October 2007 and November 2008, although that was lower than the 1,287 deaths in the Iraqi police force during the same period.

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