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January Casualties in Iraq Show Decrease

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2006 – For most of January, the casualty rate in Iraq was at the lowest rate since the spring of 2004, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman said in a briefing from Baghdad today.

"In January ... there were 19 days where the number of casualties were lower than 50, and that's the lowest rate we've seen since the spring of '04," Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said.

"If you study total casualty numbers - and these casualty numbers include coalition, civilian and Iraqi security force casualties - the month of January had about 1,600 casualties," he said.

By comparison, he pointed out, November, December and January had monthly casualty totals 1,000 less than October and less than half those recorded in May 2004.

"You can see a significant trend line down in the number of casualties: coalition, civilian and Iraqi security force casualties," Lynch said.

While the overall downward trend is encouraging, "the predominant number of casualties are in the Iraqi civilian population," Lynch said. "If you work the numbers you realize that 50 percent of the casualties ... are Iraqi civilians."

Lynch attributes this to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's efforts to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq. He said the terrorist is inept at attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces, so he has shifted the focus of his attacks.

"He's zoomed his target (in) on Iraqi civilians," Lynch said. "That is indeed the target of Zarqawi because he can get mass effects, he can get mass coverage, and he's trying to create a sectarian divide here in Iraq."

Yesterday's attack on Iraqi construction workers in a Baghdad Shiite neighborhood is a prime example of Zarqawi's tactics, Lynch said. A bomb killed at least eight and wounded more than 50.

But still Iraqi citizens' tips are foiling these kinds of attacks on a more regular basis, he said.

Two recent operations were launched in Baghdad and north of Karbala on tips from Iraqi citizens. They resulted in the detention of a suspected kidnapper and the discovery of materials used in making improvised explosive devices, Lynch said.

The number of tips from Iraqis has increased from about 400 in December 2004 to 4,700 in December 2005, he said. Iraqi citizens gave coalition and Iraqi security forces over 30,000 tips last year, the general noted.

"We find a majority ... of our operations and Iraqi security force operations are intelligence-led operations based on tips provided by Iraqi citizens," Lynch said.

Security operations are continuing all across Iraq, he added. Of the 443 total operations conducted last week, only about one-third were coalition forces only.

"Two-thirds ... were either conducted independently by the Iraqi security forces or done in combination with coalition forces," Lynch said. "So you see, we've reached the point in our counterinsurgency operations where the Iraqi security forces have clearly taken the lead across Iraq."

Last week's operations resulted in the detention of 320 suspected terrorists, 11 foreign fighters, 100 weapons caches and the clearing of 150 emplaced IEDs, he said.

That the IEDs were found and cleared before they detonated is important, Lynch said. "We have reached the point in our operations where we find and clear over 40 percent of the IEDs that have been emplaced," he said.

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