The number of Iraqi civilians who met violent deaths in the two years after the US-led invasion was today put at 24,865 by an independent research team.
The figures, compiled from Iraqi and international media reports, found US and coalition military forces were responsible for 37% of the deaths, with anti-occupation forces and insurgents responsible for 9%. A further 36% were blamed on criminal violence.
Civilian deaths attributed to US and coalition military forces peaked in the invasion period from March to May 2003 - which accounts for 30% of all civilian deaths in the two-year period - but the longer-term trend has been for increasing numbers to die at the hands of insurgents.
Figures obtained last week from the Iraqi interior ministry put the average civilian and police officer death toll in insurgent attacks from August 2004 to March 2005 at 800 a month.
John Sloboda of the Iraq Body Count project, which co-authored the report with Oxford Research Group, said the Iraqi civilian death toll was the "forgotten cost" of the decision to go to war in Iraq.
"On average, 34 Iraqis every day have met violent deaths since the invasion of March 2003," he said at the launch of the report in London.
" Our data shows that no sector of Iraqi society has escaped. We sincerely hope this research will help to inform decision makers around the world about the real needs of the Iraqi people as they struggle to rebuild their country."
The Iraq Body Count project is the most complete attempt of its kind to record the civilian dead in Iraq. The researchers work from media reports, information from mortuary officials and on-the-ground research projects. Its figures, which the group regards as conservative estimates, do not include irregular fighters or others who died while attacking coalition or Iraqi government forces.
Neither the US nor the UK, the former occupying powers, provide figures for the numbers of Iraqi civilian dead.
The figures up to March 2005 do not include the period since the elected Shia-led government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi prime minister, took office and the insurgency has worked at an increasing rate to kill Iraqi civilians and police officers.
In the past week, suicide bombers have wreaked havoc in Baghdad and towns in the so-called triangle of death, to the south of the capital. Bombers also struck with devastating effect in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.
In the deadliest bombing, one of at least 10 on Saturday, more than 98 people were killed and 130 injured in Musayyib, south of Baghdad, after a suicide bomber blew up a fuel tanker near a crowded marketplace and in front of a Shia mosque.
Insurgents today killed 13 people in an ambush on a bus carrying Iraqi workers to a US airbase north-east of Baghdad near the city of Baqouba. One of the 15 Sunni Arabs appointed to a committee to draft Iraq's constitution, Mijbil Issa, was later assassinated in a drive-by shooting with two companions in the Karradah area of Baghdad.
According to the Iraq Body Count report, 53% of those who died in the two years since the invasion were killed by explosive devices. Half of the total number died in Baghdad, and a fifth were women and children.
The deteriorating security situation has alarmed Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading Shia cleric, who urged the Iraqi government to protect the people in "this genocidal war", according to the vice-president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who held a meeting with him at the weekend.
Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shia radical cleric, who last summer led a rebellion against US forces in the Shia holy city of Najaf, blamed the violence in Iraq on the presence of US and other foreign forces.
"The occupation in itself is a problem," he told BBC Newsnight last night. "Iraq not being independent is the problem. And the other problems stem from that - from sectarianism to civil war, the entire American presence causes this."
A report published last year in the medical journal the Lancet suggested the chances of a violent death in Iraq were 58 times higher after the invasion than before it.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University in the US and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad put the civilian death toll at up to 100,000 since the invasion.
The study was based on interviews with Iraqis, most of them doctors, but conceded that the data on which the projections were based was of "limited precision".
© 2005 Guardian Newspapers Limited