Experts put Iraq death toll at nearly 500,000

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The first major study into the human cost of the Iraq war in eight years has found that nearly half a million people died because of the U.S.-led invasion.

Research published in the PLOS Medicine journal on Tuesday said there were at least 461,000 "excess" deaths between 2003 and 2011 as a direct result of violence or the associated collapse of civil infrastructure.

It was the first analysis since 2006, the bloodiest period of the war.

Various studies have estimated the number of people killed because of the illegal invasion of Iraq.

The figure dwarfs the estimate from the Iraq Body Count project, which has counted 112,000 violent deaths since the invasion.

That largely bases its figure on media reports and hospital records.

The U.S.-based researchers surveyed 2,000 households in Iraq, ensuring a representative geographical spread, and asked people about the number of deaths from January 2001 to March 2003, when the U.S. and its allies invaded.

They compared this with the number who had died since the invasion, saying the rate was 50 per cent higher after 2003.

Based on the interviews, they estimated that the "total excess deaths attributable to the war" were 405,000 - adding 56,000 to that total to account for families who fled the country.

The researchers said at least 60 percent of the excess deaths were down to violence, attributing 35 per cent of those to coalition forces and 32 per cent to sectarian militias.

And despite bomb attacks hogging the headlines, the survey found that only 12 percent were due to car bombs and 9 percent to other explosions.

Gunfire was the biggest killer, accounting for 63 percent of violent deaths.

The researchers said the number of nonviolent deaths - chiefly because of cardiovascular failure - also increased after the invasion.

Lead author Amy Hagopian said people are unable to leave their homes for medical help during war, while hospitals are overwhelmed by violent injuries.

"The water is compromised. Stress is elevated. The power is out. The distribution networks for medical supplies are compromised," she told NBC news.

This article is reposted from Morning Star.

Photo: California National Guard/Flickr (CC)

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