A recent independent study of civilian deaths resulting from armed violence in Iraq during the period 2003-2008 by the Public Library of Science Group has concluded that coalition forces are responsible for only 12% of such deaths. 11% were caused by anti-coalition forces and 74% by what are termed “unknown perpetrators, who targeted civilians and were indistinguishable from their victims (for example, a suicide bomber in a market).”
Researchers have found that while coalition forces accounted for 12 per cent of deaths and Iraqi forces 11 per cent, the vast majority of violent killings were killed by unknown perpetrators.
Of those by far the biggest proportion – around a third of the total – was summary executions and kidnappings between rival factions and gangs as law and order broke down.
The study by King’s College London, published in PLoS Medicine, provides the most detailed assessment so far of civilian deaths in the course of the conflict.
The entire peer reviewed study can be found here.
The data for the study was taken from the Iraq Body Count database, which has listed violent deaths from armed violence in Iraq since 2003 (along with the action that caused the death). The findings suggest that destabilization of the region by criminals and anti-coalition groups was a key contributor to this violence.
Most Iraqi civilian violent deaths during 2003–2008 of the Iraq war were inflicted by Unknown perpetrators, primarily through extrajudicial executions that disproportionately increased in regions with greater numbers of violent deaths. Unknown perpetrators using suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, and mortars had highly lethal and indiscriminate effects on the Iraqi civilians they targeted. Deaths caused by Coalition forces of Iraqi civilians, women, and children peaked during the invasion period, with relatively indiscriminate effects from aerial weapons.
Execution by Unknown perpetrators was the most prevalent form of violent death affecting Iraqi civilians in 2003–2008. Although Unknown perpetrators’ motivations cannot be ascertained from our data, our findings are compatible with descriptive reports of Iraq’s postinvasion environment in this period, during which civilians were extensively abducted, ransomed, exchanged, and executed for financial or political gain, to destabilize Iraqi society, or to punish or deter “collaborators,” by perpetrators who strategically remained unidentifiable and who included a mixture of criminals, and sectarian and Anti-Coalition combatants, including within Iraqi security forces and police
I recommend that you read the entire study. Over the past 7+ years there have been countless estimates of civilian deaths in the Iraq war. And there have been an equal amount of opinions regarding the US-led (but wholly global) coalition’s responsibility for these deaths. I hope that this study’s findings can educate the public about the nature of violence against civilians in the Iraq war and can contribute towards an accurate and fair assessment of coalition troops actions during the conflict.