April 2009 was marked by a series of mass casualty bombings that took the lives of some 290 Iraqis. The jump in deaths that month had many inside and out of Iraq worried that large-scale violence might be returning. The latest numbers however, show a drop in deaths for May.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry released its latest figures for casualties in Iraq. They reported 165 killed in May, 134 of which were civilians, and the remaining 31 from the Iraqi security forces. In April they recorded 355 deaths, preceded by 252 in March, 258 in February, and 191 in January. January had the lowest toll since the U.S. invasion in 2003, but May’s numbers have now surpassed that according to the Iraqi government.
Other organizations also noted the drop. Iraq Body Count found 483 killed in April, compared to a preliminary number of 344 in May, while icasualties reported 188 dead in May and 347 in April. The Associated Press keeps its own count as well and said that 225 died in May, while 371 were killed in April.
The U.S. command in Iraq noted that attacks were down 50% in mid-May compared to all of April 2009. A U.S. military spokesman said that there had only been 13 major attacks in Iraq from the beginning of May to the 23rd of that month compared to 28 for all of April. General Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq believed that attacks were related to two important anniversaries. April 6-7 marked the formation of the Baath Party, while April 9 was the fall of Saddam from power.
November 08 340
December 08 316
January 09 191
February 09 258
March 09 252
April 09 355
May 09 165
Iraq Body Count
November 08 472
December 08 521
January 09 275
February 09 343
March 09 415
April 09 483
May 09 344
November 08 317
December 08 320
January 09 187
February 09 202
March 09 278
April 09 347
May 09 182
January 09 242
February 09 288
March 09 335
April 09 371
May 09 225
As reported before, overall attacks and deaths in Iraq are down compared to 2008, but have begun to creep back up in recent months. From April 1 to September 30, 2008 there were an average of just over 1,700 attacks per month. That went down to 1,169 from October 1 to December 31, 2008, and then to an average of 323 for January 1 to March 20, 2009. Casualties also dropped from July to December 2008, before hitting a low point in January 2009. That corresponded with campaigning for the 2009 provincial elections when Sunnis came out in large numbers compared to 2005 when they boycotted the ballot box. It appears that insurgents backed off for a period of time to allow people to vote. A similar series of events happened in the December 2005 elections when many insurgent groups backed the vote, held off on operations, and even provided security at polling centers. The trend since January 2009 has been for the number of Iraqis killed to go back up until May. Whether that month will turn out to be a temporary dip like January or the beginning of a new trend is yet to be seen.
For more on violence in Iraq see:
New Attack And Death Statistics For Iraq
How Many Have Died In Iraq And By What Means
Is Violence Increasing In Iraq?
Review of 2008 Attack Statistics In Iraq
2008 Iraq Death Totals
Iraqi Death Counts
Chon, Gina, “U.S. Says Attacks in Iraq Are Down 50% So Far in May,” Wall Street Journal, 5/25/09
Cordesman, Anthony, “Iraq: USCENTCOM and Iraqi Government Estimates of the Trends in the Patterns in Violence and Casualties,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 5/1/09
Haynes, Deborah, “Transcript of The Times interview with General Ray Odierno,” Times of London, 4/9/09
Reid, Robert, “Iraq civilian deaths fall after April spike,” Associated Press, 6/1/09
Sly, Liz, “Iraqi casualties fall to record low in May,” Los Angeles Times, 6/1/09
Steinberg, Guido, “The Iraqi Insurgency,” German Institute for International and Security Affairs, December 2006