[By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy | Wednesday, 11 July, 2007.]
U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year, according to military statistics compiled in Iraq and obtained by McClatchy Newspapers. The statistics are the first official accounting of civilian shootings since the war began, and while they seem small compared with the thousands who've died in Iraq's violence, they show the difficulty that the U.S. has in fulfilling its vow to protect civilians. The numbers cover what the military calls escalation-of-force incidents, in which American troops fire at civilians who've come too close or have approached checkpoints too quickly. In the months since U.S. commanders have dispatched more troops to the field — ostensibly to secure Iraqi communities — the number of Iraqis killed and injured in such incidents has spiked, the statistics show.
Pentagon officials have declined repeatedly to reveal the numbers of civilian deaths and injuries caused by American troops. The escalation-of-force statistics, however, were part of a recent briefing given to Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq. A person familiar with the briefing provided the statistics to McClatchy. They cover 3,200 incidents since July 2006 in which U.S. troops fired warning shots at Iraqi civilians. Such incidents led to injury or death 36 times a month on average — more than once a day. (Full story here.)