Iraq WikiLeaks release offers new casualty details

Grisly killings of civilians have come to define the Iraq war. New details found in government documents released by WikiLeaks, however, provide a surprising level of detail about many attacks and raise questions about how much the U.S. military knew during the months it sought to play down reports of the slaughter.

The documents include reports from soldiers on the ground about day-to-day violence and individual attacks _ including shootings, roadside bombings, and the execution-style killings and targeted assassinations that left bodies in the streets of Baghdad at the height of sectarian violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war

The information is full of military jargon and acronyms but often includes names of victims, times of day of the attacks and the neighbourhoods where they occurred.
That contradicted years of statements by American officials, who have repeatedly resisted providing information about civilian casualties. The US military often told journalists in Baghdad it did not keep detailed records of civilian deaths or have information on particular attacks.

In 2006 and 2007, the Bush administration and military commanders repeatedly denied Iraq was sliding into civil war and often played down the extent of civilian carnage, much of which had no direct effect on US forcesThe reports also point to a higher death toll than previously believed.

Iraq Body Count, a private British-based group that has tracked the number of Iraqi civilians killed since the war started in March 2003, said it had analyzed the information and found 15,000 previously unreported deaths.

That would raise its total from as many as 107,369 civilians to more than 122,000 civilians.Rights groups criticized Washington for not releasing the information, insisting that casualty information did not pose a national security risk.
"The American public has a right to know the full human cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union said in an e-mail. "A lot of this information should have been released to the public a long time ago."

The U.S. military has maintained careful records of the number of American service members who have died in Iraq _ 4,425 as of yesterday.

But civilian casualty figures in the US-led war in Iraq have been hotly disputed because of the political stakes in a conflict opposed by many countries and a large portion of the American public

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