World News : Violence in Iraq killed more than 15,000 civilians and security personnel in 2014, government figures showed Thursday, making it one of the deadliest years since the 2003 US-led invasion.
Figures compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries put the death toll at 15,538, compared with 17,956 killed in 2007. Last year’s toll was also more than double the 6,522 people killed in 2013.
Iraq Body Count, a Britain-based NGO that tracks violence in Iraq, gave an even higher toll for 2014, saying that 17,073 civilians were killed, which would make it the third deadliest year since 2003.
“For Iraqis, it has been the most difficult and painful of years because of the attack of the (Islamic State group) terrorist gangs,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a New Year’s speech, referring to militants responsible for much of the bloodshed.
The year got off to a bloody start, with the government losing control of parts of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi and all of Fallujah — just a short drive from Baghdad — to anti-government fighters. The violence was sparked by the demolition of the country’s main anti-government protest camp near Ramadi in late 2013.
It spread to Fallujah, and security forces later withdrew from areas of both cities, leaving them open for capture. That was a harbinger of events in June, when the Islamic State (IS) group spearheaded a major militant offensive that swept security forces aside.
The militants overran Iraq’s second city Mosul and then drove south towards Baghdad, raising fears that the capital itself would be attacked. They were eventually stopped short of the capital, but seized swathes of five provinces north and west of the city.
A renewed IS push in the north in August drove Kurdish forces back towards the capital of their autonomous region, helping to spark a US-led campaign of air strikes against the militants.
That effort has since been expanded to training for Iraqi forces aimed at preparing them as quickly as possible to join the fight against IS. Iraqi soldiers and police, Kurdish forces, Shiite militias and Sunni tribesmen have succeeded in regaining some ground from the militants.
But large parts of the country, including three major cities, remain outside Baghdad’s control. AFP