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Page last updated at 03:05 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

Iraq civilian deaths down in 2008

Mourners in Iraq
Roadside bombs are a threat to civilians and military alike

The number of civilians killed by violence in Iraq has fallen by two-thirds in 2008, researchers say.

Official Iraqi figures say 5,714 people were killed in 2008 compared to 16,252 the previous year.

The non-governmental organisation Iraq Body Count also said the number of deaths was down by two-thirds, but put the figure between 8,315 and 9,028.

US military casualties fell from 900 in 2007 to just over 300 according to the independent website icasualties.org.

The improvement has been greatest in Baghdad itself, says the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Baghdad.

Official Iraqi figures indicate that around 2,300 people were killed in the capital this year.

Over the course of 2008, Iraq Body Count says as many as 9,028 Iraqi civilians and local police were reported to have died across the country. That compares to up to 25,000 reported deaths in 2007.

Security wall

Iraq Body Count says that means that the death rate is down to 25 people killed every day, compared with 67 a day last year.

The organisation was founded by academics and peace activists to mark civilian, and not just foreign or Iraqi military deaths, which are running at more than 4,200 US troops and 178 British servicemen and women since the invasion.

Improvements to security in Baghdad mean that the local government is keen to remove the ugly but practical blast walls that have become one of the defining features of the capital since 2003.

However, deadly improvised explosive devices still go off regularly in Baghdad, targeting civilians as well as Iraqi police and the US military.

On the day of the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit two weeks ago, a car bomb went off in Baghdad killing 18, while on Saturday another killed at least 22 people and injured 54.

On Sunday, a roadside bomb in the city also killed an American soldier.

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