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42,500 injuries also recorded by Iraq Body Count
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(CNN) -- Nearly 25,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq since the start of the Iraq war, according to a group that tracks such statistics from media reports.
The Iraq Body Count -- a London-based group comprised of academics, human rights and anti-war activists -- said on Tuesday that 24,865 civilians had died between March 20, 2003 and March 19, 2005.
The group said 42,500 injuries were recorded as well.
The report also said that "U.S.-led forces were sole killers of 37 percent of civilian victims" and that "anti-occupation forces were sole killers of 9 percent of civilian victims." It added that "criminals killed 36 percent of all civilians."
"Our data has been extracted from a comprehensive analysis of over 10,000 press and media reports published since March 2003. Our accounting is not complete: only an in-depth, on-the-ground census could come close to achieving that," the group said.
"But if journalism is the first draft of history, then this dossier may claim to be an early historical analysis of the military intervention's known human costs."
The Iraqi government disputed some of the finding of the report.
"We welcome the attention given by this report to Iraqi victims of violence but we consider that it is mistaken in claiming that the plague of terrorism has killed fewer Iraqis than the multinational forces," said the prime minister's office, citing recent terror strikes, including the Musayyib bombing that killed nearly 100 people on Saturday.
"The international forces try to avoid civilian casualties, whereas the terrorists target civilians and try to kill as many of them as they can."
The U.S. military in Iraq reacted to the report by saying that "coalition forces have not targeted the Iraqi civilian population during Operation Iraqi Freedom."
It added, "We go to extreme lengths to ensure that everything possible is done to ensure that they are not put in harm's way during our operations. The only organization capable of reliable data is the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the Iraqi government."
Here are some of the trends the group culled from its data:
Tracking civilian deaths has been a challenge for Iraqi government officials, and estimates have varied in different reports attempting to quantify death toll figures.
The prime minister's office Tuesday said that:
"The Iraqi Ministry of Health continually counts the number of civilians killed and wounded and their most recent figures show that 6,629 Iraqi civilians were killed and 23,838 wounded between April 2004 and April 2005.
"Figures from the Ministry of the Interior, which include casualties from Iraq's armed forces, show that 8,175 Iraqis were killed in the 10 months between July 2004 and May 2005.
"The root cause of Iraq's suffering is terrorism, inherited from Saddam's fascist regime and from mistaken fundamentalist ideology. The solution to it lies in developing Iraq's security forces and its political process -- and whoever wants to help Iraq should spend their efforts in supporting this.
"Everybody knows that international forces are necessary in Iraq, on a temporary basis, for this process to take place and they will leave Iraq at a time chosen by Iraqis, not in response to terrorist pressure."
The multinational forces' statement underscored that its operation has been "prosecuted in the most precise fashion of any conflict in the history of modern warfare. We know that the loss of any innocent lives is a tragedy, something Iraqi security forces and the multi-national force painstakingly work to avoid every single day.
"It should not be lost on anyone that the former regime elements, terrorists and insurgents have made a practice of deliberately targeting noncombatants; of using civilians as human shields; and of operating and conducting attacks against coalition forces from within areas inhabited by civilians."
Iraq Body Count says in the report that its number-tracking project "is, in our view, among the highest humanitarian imperatives, an imperative which has particular application to governments who conduct military interventions.
"Assurances that military forces 'make every effort to avoid civilian casualties' are no substitute for real data-gathering and analysis, and can have no basis without it.
"On the eve of the invasion [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair stated '[Saddam Hussein] will be responsible for many, many more deaths even in one year than we will be in any conflict.' Only data such as presented here will allow a realistic evaluation of such predictions."
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