IRBIL - Iraqi civilians and police officers are being killed by insurgents at a rate of more than 800 a month - one an hour, according to new figures released by the interior ministry.
The figures published yesterday show that between August 1 2004 and May 31 2005, 8,175 Iraqis died as a result of insurgent activity.
About 1,500 of those have died since the Shia-led government of Ibrahim al-Jafaari took office on April 28.
The scale of casualties undermines Washington's claim that the battle against foreign and home-grown militants in Iraq is being won.
Over the same 10-month period, more than 780 insurgents lost their lives - either at the hands of US and Iraqi forces or when carrying out suicide attacks.
It was unclear from the figures how many of the victims were police officers a prime target for insurgents but officials said the Sunni Arab-led insurgency now accounted for most non-military deaths in the country.
The death toll did not include Iraqi soldiers and civilians killed during US military operations. It also did not count the toll in the relatively quiet northern Kurdish area.
According to defence ministry figures, about 275 soldiers were killed between January 1 and June 30 2005. An interior ministry spokesman said yesterday that in the first half of 2005, 620 policemen had died.
It is civilians, however, who have borne the brunt of the car-bombings, suicide attacks, assassinations and beheadings.
Suicide bombings now occur with such regularity that they often go barely reported. Two attacks this week killed more than 50, the second tearing through a crowd of children gathering around a US military vehicle.
The second attack elicited a statement yesterday purportedly from al-Qaida in Iraq, led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al Zarqawi, which denied responsibility.
US military commanders admit that Iraq's fledgling US- trained forces are still no match for the well-armed and sophisticated insurgency, which some estimate could number 20,000 fighters.
The New York Times quoted hospital records giving a breakdown of civilian deaths according to region, gender and age for a six-month period up to April 5 this year.
The data showed that of the 3,853 deaths recorded in Iraqi hospitals, 32% occurred in Baghdad. The western Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni Arab minority, was the second most lethal area. The third most dangerous spot was the Shia holy city of Najaf, regularly targeted by Sunni insurgents and the site of a fierce battle last year between US forces and fighters loyal to the rebel Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
During the same period, the health ministry said 211 children had been killed and 15,517 people had been wounded.
Kameran Qaradaghi, a spokesman for the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, said: "Take a good look at these figures. They show that the real aim of the insurgents is simply to kill as many people as they can.
"All civilians are targets: young and old, male and female, Sunni, Shia or Kurd. It should also tell you more and more about those who talk of "an honest resistance".
There has been fierce political debate over the exact numbers of civilian casualties. Estimates range from 10,000 to 100,000.
© 2005 Guardian Newspapers, Ltd.