Multiple Sources: Violent Deaths in Iraq Declined in October

Editor’s note: this is the first “good news” out of Iraq from a credible source in a long time. We can only hope that we’re not seeing a statistical blip or a short-term lull in the bloodshed. When reading this story, keep in mind that the political situation — the prospects for the kind of broad national reconciliation that might lead to a stable Iraq — is as bad as it’s ever been. The danger with stories like these is that they leave the public with the idea that an improvement in the military situation in Iraq is evidence of overall “progress.” That’s not true: absent any changes in the structural issues that have thus far fueled the chaos in Iraq, the ebbs and flows of the civil war(s) there are of limited importance.

The number of violent civilian and military deaths in Iraq has continued to drop, figures for October suggest.

There is no single reliable source for statistics but a number agree on a marked improvement, correspondents say.

They say this is generally attributed to the US and Iraqi troop surge in and around Baghdad that began in February.

Analysts say other key factors are the halt in operations by Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr and the abandonment of al-Qaeda by some western Sunni tribes.

The BBC's Jim Muir Baghdad says different sources do have different casualty figures for October but they all agree that the number of Iraqis killed by violence was again at a much lower level, as it had been in September.

They suggest fewer than 900 people died violent deaths, compared with nearly 2,000 in January - the worst month since the attack on the key Shia shrine in Samarra in February 2006.

Surge peak

AFP news agency quoted interior, defence and health ministry data as saying at least 554 Iraqis were killed and the bodies of another 333 people who may have been killed in previous months were found.

Both Iraqi and US military casualties were also lower.

Thirty-eight US personnel were killed in October, compared with more than 100 in each of April, May and June.

The military casualties peaked then as the US and Iraqi forces launched numerous operations to bring Baghdad and outlying areas under control.

In his report to a congressional panel last month, top US military commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, said military objectives of the surge were "largely being met".

He said that although improvements were "uneven", violence had declined significantly since the surge began.

Our correspondent says one question is whether the improvement is a predictable temporary result of the surge that might be reversed when the US military starts drawing down troops.

But analysts say what might sustain the trend is the fact that Sunni tribes in western Anbar province and elsewhere have turned against al-Qaeda and have joined government and multi-national forces.

Moqtada Sadr's Shia militia, the Mehdi Army, had been blamed for many of the abductions and killings around Baghdad and his suspension of operations has also helped the downturn.

However, our correspondent says despite the improved figures, bombings and shootings happen somewhere in Iraq every day.

On Thursday, at least 16 people were killed in a number of bomb attacks in different parts of the country. Among the attacks:

    Six policemen were killed in an attack aimed at a local police chief in the town of Balad Ruz in Diyala province

  • Also in Diyala, a suicide car bomber killed two soldiers at a military base in al-Sadiyah


  • In eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb went off in the district of al-Bnuq, killing three people


  • The US military said two US soldiers were killed on Wednesday in an explosion in the northern province of Nineveh.


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