Thursday, October 28, 2004

# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IBC FOLLOW UP: This post will take a detailed look at some of the reports of civilian casualties in the IBC database. It will compare the description of the incidents provided by IBC (in the categories labeled 'Targets', 'Weapons' and 'Min'/'Max' [Casualties]) with the descriptions provided by the newspaper articles they cite as evidence. For purposes of clarity, this post will identify each incident according to the 'Incident code' assigned by IBC.

Incident: k471 Date: 15 Oct 2004 IBC: Police patrol/car bomb; 10/10 dead.
AP: A vehicle bomb reported Friday by the U.S. military blasted near a police station in southwest Baghdad, killing 10 civilians - including a family of four who were driving by at the time of the blast. (16 Oct 2004)

Incident: k467 Date: 16 Oct 2004 IBC: Police returning from Jordan to Karbala/gunife; 9/9 dead.
AP: A militant group claimed responsibility for the killing of nine Iraqi policemen returning from training in Jordan, criticizing in a statement Monday the role Jordan is playing in building what it called "the traitor Iraqi police force." (18 Oct 2004)

Incident: k445 Date: 10 Oct 2004 IBC: Possibly police academy/suicide minibus bomb; 9/17 dead. AP: Two car bombs shook the capital in quick succession Sunday, killing at least 11 people, including an American soldier...A suicide attacker detonated a minibus packed with explosives near an eastern Baghdad police academy, police Cap. Ali Ayez said at the scene...The nearby Kindi Hospital received 10 bodies and treated five wounded from the blast, said Dr. Ali Ghazi...Iraq's most feared terror group, Tawhid and Jihad, claimed responsibility for both attacks. (10 Oct 2004)
Reuters: A suspected suicide car bomb killed up to 17 people near Baghdad's Oil Ministry and a nearby police academy on Sunday, a spokesman for the ministry said...The Interior Ministry official put the death toll at six. Police sources said they believed it had been a suicide car bombing and said they could confirm nine dead.

Incident: k444 Date: 8 Oct 2004 IBC: Suspected al Zarqawi safehouse/US airstrike; 11/13.
AP: American warplanes struck a building where the U.S. command said leaders of al-Zarqawi's network were meeting early Friday. Residents said the house was full of people who had gathered for a wedding. The attack killed 13 people, including the groom, said Dr. Ahmed Saeed at the city hospital. Seventeen others were wounded, including the bride, he said. (8 Oct 2004)
Reuters: A U.S. air raid, aimed at foreign fighters led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed 11 people and wounded 17 after a wedding party in the rebel-held Iraqi city of Falluja on Friday, residents and doctors said...At the hospital, where blood pooled on the floor, a doctor named Rafah al-Hayat said 11 people had been killed and 17 wounded. One of his colleagues, Khaled Nasser, said nine females aged between 5 and 50 were among the wounded.

Incident: k437 Date: 06 Oct 2004 IBC: Iraq National Guard recruits/suicide car bomb; 15/16 dead.
AP: Dr. Waleed Jawad Qamar of the Anah health clinic said his facility recorded 13 dead and 25 injured. Another hospital in nearby Hadithah reported three dead and five injured. U.S. officials said no Americans were killed or wounded but had no report of Iraqi casualties. (6 Oct 2004)
Reuters: Local doctors said 16 people had been killed and 24 wounded. Witnesses said they saw a car hurtling towards the National Guard centre on the edge of town just before the explosion. (6 Oct 2004)

Incident: k433 Date: 4 Oct 2004 IBC: Suspected al Zarqawi supporters/US airstrikes; 11/11 dead.
AP: The military, which regularly accuses hospitals of inflating casualty figures, said the strikes targeted followers of Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and their associates.
A strike in the central al-Jumhuriyah area killed nine people, including three women and four children, said Dr. Adil Khamis of Fallujah General Hospital...A second strike in the city's southern Al-Shuhada neighborhood killed two more people, Khamis said. (04 Oct 2004)

Incident: k429 Date: 4 Oct 2004 IBC: Army or police recruiting station/car bomb, possibly suicide; 14/14 dead.
AP: Yarmouk Hospital received 15 bodies and 81 wounded from the explosion, said Sabah Aboud, the facility's chief registration official. (4 Oct 2004)

This is just an informal sample of the incidents in the IBC database. I basically chose the incidents because they all occurred in the past month and resulted in approximately 10 deaths, which was above average.

If you total up the casualty figures, you get 57-66 dead from five insurgent attacks and 22-24 dead from two sets of US airstrikes. The credibility of these reports seems to rest on the reports of doctors and hospital officials, who are generally quoted by name.

The motives to exaggerate such casualty figures are obvious. I wouldn't be surprised if doctors in insurgent-held territory are intimidated into revising their estimates upwards. Moreover, there is no local press there to hold anyone accountable.

The situation may not be all that different in government held territory. The Allawi government may bribe doctors to revise their estimates upwards, even if the United States prefers otherwise. There is a nascent press in Iraq, but I have no idea whether it focuses on such issues as the accuracy of casualty counts.

Anyhow, my intentions for the near future are to fact-check all of the October 2004 incidents in the IBC database. I am curious whether the overall ratio of casualties from government and insurgents attacks will be much different from the 2.5:1 ration in my little unscientific sample. Either way, I will defintely let you know.
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