Almost 7,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed throughout 2016 as a result of continued violence and turmoil in the war-ravaged country, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said yesterday.
UNAMI revealed that their data showed that at least 6,878 civilians had been killed last year, and stressed that their figure was “to be considered as the absolute minimum” as they could not acquire reliable civilian death figures in conflict areas around the country.
Since 17 October 2016, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), allied Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia jihadists have been engaged in a US-backed offensive to dislodge the Daesh militant group from the northern city of Mosul.
Apart from the Mosul offensive, the ISF has been engaged in military operations against Daesh since 2014, fighting in over a third of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including the expansive western Anbar desert, Iraq’s largest province dominated by the Sunni Arabs.
Due to persisting instability and insecurity even after Daesh was expelled from all of Anbar’s main towns and cities, UNAMI has stated that their civilian casualty figures also do not include any data for four months of 2016, including December.
Civilians killed by all sides to the conflict
Iraqi civilians have often borne the brunt of fighting between US and Iran-backed government forces and militant groups, particularly Daesh.
Daesh has claimed responsibility for a spate of bomb attacks in the capital Baghdad that has claimed dozens of lives in the past week alone.
In July last year, Daesh also set off explosions in the busy market areas of Baghdad’s central Karrada district as people went about their festive shopping at the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. More than 300 people died in that attack.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government and Iran-backed Shia extremist groups have also been accused of committing war crimes against civilians.
International human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released several reports throughout 2016 highlighting abuses by the Iraqi government and Shia militias.
In June, Governor of Anbar Sohaib Al-Rawi revealed that 49 civilians had been executed in the field by Shia jihadists near Fallujah, and a further 643 civilians were forcibly disappeared. To date, the fate of these civilians is unknown, though they are presumed to have died under violent circumstances.
In October, MEMO broke the news that Iraqi soldiers had been abusing children around Mosul, with reports of some being beaten to death with hammers.
In November, footage emerged of Iraqi military personnel torturing a young boy, before having a tank drive over him.
Operations to recapture Mosul have resulted in a spike in civilian casualties, with hospital workers confirming that, one month into the campaign, more than 250 civilians had been killed as a result of ISF and US bombardment of the beleaguered city.