by Prashant Rao
One of the most depressing daily tasks that we have in the Baghdad bureau is to track daily incidences of violence across Iraq, and I use the term daily quite literally. Days without reports of attacks somewhere in the country are atypical here, though thankfully violence is much less frequent than during the worst of Iraq's bloodshed in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
That all being said, the actual task of verifying reports of attacks is incredibly time-consuming and opaque -- officials are reticent to be quoted "on the record", journalists are frequently restricted from accessing the sites of attacks, and authorities often clean up areas where bombings or shootings have taken place very quickly after they occur (which is also a problem for forensic investigators).
Just recently, for example, multiple car bombs went off in an area of north Baghdad, and when we heard of the violence, we dispatched a team of reporters to take a look. When they got to the site of the attacks, security forces barred them from taking pictures or videos of the scene. This was not a one-off instance by any stretch, and other journalists have experience this as well.
And though violence is down from its peak, attacks remain a regular fact of life for Iraqis. Unfortunately, unrest only makes headlines during those terrible days when many are killed. The days when "only" a handful die rarely make news these days. On Wednesday, for example, 15 people were killed in a series of shootings and bombings across Iraq, including a young child.
AFP image/P. Rao
With all of that in mind, I have opened up AFP’s internal spreadsheet tracking daily casualties from attacks in Iraq. It is free for anyone to use for any purpose, but I ask that you cite AFP when you do use it. All the figures are based on reports attributed to officials -- either two credible, but unnamed, officials, or one credible named source. We have obviously been tracking violence here for some time, but only recently began putting it into an online spreadsheet.
At the bottom of the spreadsheet, you will see various links to other sheets for violence tracking in previous months, for all of 2012, and monthly government-released figures for comparison's purposes.
You can find the spreadsheet here, or by making note this regrettably memorable URL: http://www.bit.ly/AFPIraqToll.