The whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks today released a trove of classified reports that it said documented at least 109,000 deaths in the Iraq war, more than the United States previously has acknowledged, as well as what it described as cases of torture and other abuses by Iraqi and coalition forces.
"The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces)," WikiLeaks said in a statement regarding the documents' release. "The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60 percent) of these are civilian deaths. That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six-year period."
The new documents covered 2004 through 2009, WikiLeaks said, with the exception of May 2004 and March 2009.
A review of the documents by Iraq Body Count, an advocacy group that long has monitored civilian casualties in the war, found 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths, according to WikiLeaks -- a detail first reported in The Guardian newspaper, one of a handful of international news organizations that got an advance look at the documents.
The U.S. military long has maintained that it does not keep an official death tally, but earlier this month following a Freedom of Information Act request, the Pentagon said some 77,000 Iraqis had been killed from 2004 to mid-2008 -- a shorter period than that covered by WikiLeaks.
Besides the different time periods, the New York Times, which also saw the WikiLeaks documents early, noted that "some deaths are reported more than once, and some reports have inconsistent casualty figures."
Al Jazeera, which also got an advance look at the documents, reported a total of 285,000 war casualties on its Arabic-language website, a number that included both dead and wounded. It also reported that the documents said 681 Iraqi civilians were killed at U.S. checkpoints, 180,000 Iraqis were arrested during the war and 15,000 Iraqis were buried without being identified.
The massive leak of 391,832 documents at 5 p.m. ET today, which WikiLeaks billed as "the largest classified military leak in history," followed WikiLeaks' similar but smaller release on the war in Afghanistan.
The new release was anticipated by the Pentagon, which has warned that publicizing the information could endanger U.S. troops.
"We strongly condemn the unauthorized disclosure of classified information," said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell prior to the documents becoming public.
Morrell said the documents "expose secret information that could make our troops even more vulnerable to attack in the future. Just as with the leaked Afghan documents, we know our enemies will mine this information looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment. This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed."
Amid such criticism, WikiLeaks said this time it "undertook the arduous task of redacting any piece of information contained that might lead to the identification of any innocent Iraqi."
The Pentagon said the documents it expected would be released include tactical reports from late 2003 to 2010 containing brief unit-level observations of what those units saw on a daily basis.