BAGHDAD – At least 85,000 people lost their lives from 2004 to 2008 in Iraq's violence, according to the first official report by the Iraqi government on the death toll since the war begun.
The report, released by the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry late Tuesday as part of a larger study on the country's human rights situation, said 85,694 people were killed from 2004-08, and 147,195 were wounded during the same period.
The Associated Press reported in April that just over 87,000 people died between 2005 and early 2009, according to government statistics it obtained.
The Iraqi death toll has been a hotly disputed subject and critics on both sides of the political spectrum have accused the other side of manipulating the death numbers to sway public opinion.
As Iraq became increasingly violent following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, it also became increasingly difficult to independently track such figures on a wide scale.
The report was based on death certificates issued by the health ministry and constitutes the first official finding by a government ministry on the death toll since the war begun in 2003.
Statistics for 2003 have been extremely difficult to obtain as there was no functioning Iraqi government during that time and the interim Iraqi government was not seated until mid-2004.
The report described the years that followed the U.S.-led invasion, which toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, as extremely violent years.
"Through the terrorist attacks like explosions, assassinations, kidnappings and forced displacements, the outlawed groups have created these terrible figures which represent a big challenge for the rule of law and for the Iraqi people," it said.
The report also breaks down some specific numbers, saying 1,279 children and 2,334 women were killed. It also puts the death toll of the university professors at 263, judges at 21, lawyers 95 and journalists at 269 — some of the professions which were specifically targeted as the country descended into chaos.
The toll also included 15,000 unidentified bodies who were not claimed by their families and are buried in special cemeteries.