BAGHDAD: Violence in Iraq killed more than 15,000 civilians and security personnel in 2014, government figures showed on 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 during the height of Sunni-Shiite sectarian killings.
Last year’s toll was also more than double the 6,522 people killed in 2013.
“Yet again, the Iraqi ordinary citizen continues to suffer from violence and terrorism. 2014 has seen the highest number of causalities since the violence in 2006-2007. This is a very sad state of affairs,” United Nations Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.
The UN put the number of civilians killed in Iraq during 2014 at 12,282.
Iraq Body Count, a Britain-based non-government organization that tracks violence in Iraq, gave an even higher toll, 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 jihadists 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 Sunni Arab 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 jihadists.
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 jihadists.
But large parts of the country, including three major cities, remain outside Baghdad’s control.
Iraqis also suffer from daily bombings and shootings in Baghdad and elsewhere that claim hundreds of lives each month. AFP