100,000 - full details

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    Study puts Iraqi deaths at 100,000

    British publication releases report early

    Friday, October 29, 2004


    PARIS -- About 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq as a direct or indirect consequence of the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to a new study by a research team at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

    Coming just five days before the presidential election the finding is certain to generate intense controversy, since it is far higher than previous mortality estimates for the Iraq conflict.

    Editors of The Lancet, the London-based medical publication, where an article describing the study is scheduled to appear, decided not to wait for the normal publication date next week, but to place the research online today, apparently so it could circulate before the election.

    The Bush administration has not estimated civilian casualties from the conflict, and independent groups have put the number at most in the tens of thousands.

    In the study, teams of researchers led by Dr. Les Roberts fanned out across Iraq in mid-September to interview nearly 1,000 families in 33 locations. Families were interviewed about births and deaths in the household before and after the invasion.

    Although the authors acknowledge that thorough data collection was difficult in what is effectively still a war zone, the data they managed to collect are extensive. Using what they described as the best sampling methods that could be applied under the circumstances, they found that Iraqis were 2.5 times more likely to die in the 17 months after the invasion than in the 14 months before it.

    Before the invasion, the most common causes of death in Iraq were heart attacks, strokes and chronic diseases. Afterward, violent death was far ahead of all other causes.

    "We were shocked at the magnitude, but we're quite sure that the estimate of 100,000 is a conservative estimate," said Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins team. Burnham said the team excluded data about deaths in Fallujah in making their estimate, because that city was the site of unusually intense violence.

    In 15 of the 33 communities visited, residents reported violent deaths in their families since the conflict started.

    They attributed many of those deaths to attacks by American-led forces, mostly air strikes, and most of those killed were women and children.

    The risk of violent death was 58 times higher than before the war, the researchers reported.

    The team included researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies, which has conducted similar mortality studies about North Korea and Congo. It also included doctors from Al Mustansiriya University Medical School in Baghdad.

    There is bound to be skepticism about the estimate of 100,000 excess deaths, since that translates into an average of 166 deaths a day since the invasion.

    But some people were not surprised.

    "I am emotionally shocked, but I have no trouble in believing that this many people have been killed," said Scott Lipscomb, an associate professor at Northwestern University, who works on the www.iraqbodycount.net project.

    That project, which collates only deaths reported in the news media, currently put the maximum civilian death toll at just under 17,000. "We've always maintained that the actual count must be much higher," Lipscomb said.

    The Lancet researchers said they were highly technical in their selection of interview sites and data analysis, although interview locations were limited by the researchers' decision to cut down on driving time when possible in order to reduce the risk to the interviewers. Each team included an Iraqi health professional, generally a physician.

    Although the teams relied primarily on interviews with local residents, they also requested to see at least two death certificates at the end of interviews in each area, to try to ensure that people had remembered and responded honestly. The research team decided that asking for death certificates in each case, during the interviews, might cause hostility and could put the research team in danger.

    Some of those killed may have been insurgents, not true civilians, the authors noted.

    -- The Associated Press

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