Iraq's civilian death toll lingered at more than 4,000 for the third straight year in 2011, a sign of the country's "persistent low-level conflict," according to a public online database.
A total of 4,063 civilians died violent deaths in 2011, according to the Iraq Body Count website. The figure is only a slight change from site's tally of 4,045 civilian deaths in 2010 and down by 650 from its 2009 number.
"There has now been no noticeable downward trend since mid-2009," the site reported in an analysis released Monday. "As observed in IBC's previous annual report, recent trends indicate a persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come."
Iraq Body Count is an independent public database that uses media reports as well as figures from hospitals, morgues, nongovernmental organizations and official statements. Official Iraqi government figures are typically lower, and getting an accurate picture of the Iraq war toll is difficult at best.
The site has tracked Iraqi civilian deaths since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Though the war's bloodiest years were 2006 and 2007, sporadic attacks on government installations, civilians and other targets continued throughout 2011.
For example, a suicide car bomber hit the entrance to Baghdad's heavily fortified Interior Ministry compound on December 26, killing at least five people and wounding more than three dozen others. And nearly 70 people were killed and 200-plus wounded in a string of bombings that targeted mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad four days earlier.
While the number of Iraqis killed by U.S. and allied forces has declined since 2009, when American troops pulled back from Iraq's cities, "the rate caused by Iraqi state forces has increased," the site noted. Deaths attributed to Iraqi soldiers and police rose to 140 in 2011, up from 96 the previous year, it reported.
Iraq Body Count says between 104,000 and 114,000 Iraqi civilians have died since 2003. The last American troops left Iraq in December, and the site noted that "time will tell" whether the U.S. pullout will affect the numbers.