12/30/2008, 00.00
IRAQ
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Iraq: in one year, victims of attacks down by 75%

Half of the killings occurred in Baghdad. Unofficial sources dispute the figures provided by the government, and say the victims are between 8,000 and 9,000: 25 killed each day. In December of this year, there were 299 victims, while in 2006 there were more than 1,700.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In 2008, there were 5,714 victims of attacks in Iraq, less than a third compared to the 16,252 last year. The Iraqi government says that about half of the killings (2,300 people) took place in the capital.

To the numbers of Iraqi deaths, published by official sources in Baghdad, are added the unofficial numbers of the deceased among United States soldiers: from about 900 last year, the highest number of deaths since 2003, the figure went to just above 300 in 2008.

The account of the victims includes the dozens of Christians killed in attacks, especially in the capital and in the area of Mosul. For the communities of Iraqi faithful, 2008 was a year characterized by a constant exodus from their country, and marked by constant violence in which priests and religious also lost their lives, including the Chaldean bishop of Nineveh, Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped and found dead before Easter.

The independent American website icasualties.org, which provides statistics on the victims of attacks in Iraq, calculates that in the month of December alone 299 people were killed, between civilians and security forces in Baghdad. The number is still high, although there has been progress compared to December of 2008 (500 dead) and December of 2006 (1752).

The American organization Iraq Body Count disputes the numbers, saying that the number of victims of attacks is in reality between 8,000 and 9,000 people, including Iraqi police in its count, in addition to civilians. According to the organization of activists, known for its opposition to the policies of outgoing president Bush, 25 people are killed each day.

The news of the drop in the number of victims comes, in any case, as a positive sign. The country is just emerging from the controversy in parliament over the presence of non-American foreign troops in Iraqi territory - about 6,000 soldiers, 4,000 of them British - who risk finding themselves without any legal standing after December 31. The statistics provided by Baghdad also come just a few days before a delicate passage for security in the country, in the province of Diyala. On January 1, the 8,000 Sunni militants of the Sons of Iraq, who until now have participated together with U.S. military forces in activities against Al Qaeda, will be incorporated into the national army. The inclusion of the Sunnis of Diyala in the regular army is complicated by their acute distrust and lively protests toward the central government.

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