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Iraq Civilian Casualties Drop, But Concerns Remain

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Iraq Body Count, a British-based group that has been tracking civilian casualties in Iraq since the war there began in 2003, has released its latest findings - 3,976 recorded civilian deaths from violence in 2010, down from 4,680 in 2009. VOA’s Steve Norman spoke with the group's co-founder Hamit Dardagan about this year's numbers.

Listen to the full interview with Hamit Dardagan:

According to Dardagan, 2010 has the lowest recorded number of civilian deaths since the war began. But what causes concern for his organization is that the numbers are dropping at a much slower pace than in previous years, when there had been significant reductions in violence. Now, says he, there seems to be a “steady state” of low-level violence that is hovering around 4,000 violent civilian deaths every year.

Iraq Body Count does see one encouraging sign in the latest data. As Dardagan points out, the number of violent civilian deaths dropped by 50 percent in September, the first month after the U.S. officially declared an end to its combat mission in Iraq, and the trend has held steady in the ensuing months.

What the organization does find puzzling is the persistently high level of violence in Mosul when compared to Baghdad, which, as the capital and administrative center for all of Iraq and a city several times the size of Mosul, would be a more logical flashpoint for unrest. And where there is violence, says Dardagan, the outlook is not good, because it’s usually stoked and perpetuated by retaliatory violence.

Civilian casualties in Iraq are often the result of suicide bombings and other types of targeted attacks. And while Dardagan points out that his organization is always careful in establishing who stands behind such attacks, usually the target itself, says he, is a good indicator as to who might be responsible. And since attacks, as he points out, are often directed against police forces and government installations, one can extrapolate from that that they become targets, because for many they represent the occupying forces that put them in place.

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