BAGHDAD – Execution-style killings, not headline-grabbing bombings, have been the leading cause of death among civilians in the Iraq war, a study released Wednesday shows. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, point to the brutal sectarian nature of the conflict, where death squads once roamed the streets hunting down members of the rival Muslim sect.
Estimates of the number of civilians killed in Iraq vary widely. The study was based on the database maintained by Iraq Body Count, a private group that among other sources uses media reports including those of The Associated Press.
The authors concede the data is not comprehensive but maintain that the study provides a reliable gauge of how Iraqis have died in the six-year conflict.
The findings also provide further evidence of the brutal sectarian cleansing and retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis that pushed the country to the brink of civil war before easing a year and a half ago.
“I think that a lot of the executions with torture had to do with trying to get people to move out of their houses,” said Michael Spagat, one of the study’s authors. “It had to strike fear into people’s hearts. A lot of it is just hatred and retri… >>>