As Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, IS) jihadists seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria, the death toll in both countries reached a grim milestone: at least 76,000 Syrians and 15,000 Iraqis were killed in 2014, making it one of the deadliest years for the two war-torn nations.
According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors the conflict in Syria, at least 76,021 Syrians were killed in 2014, making it the bloodiest year since the unrest started there in 2011.
Various media outlets report that figures compiled by the Iraqi Health, Interior, and Defense ministries show that 15,538 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed in 2014. That figure more than doubles the 6,522 deaths in 2013.
Al Jazeera notes that 2014 was the deadliest year in Iraq since “the height of Sunni-Shia sectarian killings” in 2007, which was also the year of the U.S. military surge there.
Both the Iraq and Syria death toll figures include security personnel, civilian, and militant fatalities.
According to the London-based SOHR, 17,790 civilians, including 3,501 children and 1,987 women, were killed in 2014.
Meanwhile, the United Nations put the 2014 death toll of civilians in Syria at 12,282.
The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reports that there were “35,408 civilian casualties (12,282 killed and 23,126 injured)” last year.
“Yet again, the Iraqi ordinary citizen continues to suffer from violence and terrorism. 2014 has seen the highest number of causalities since the violence in 2006-2007. This is a very sad state of affairs,” Nickolay Mladenov, the special representative of United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, said in a statement.
The rise in violence coincides with advances made by the Islamic State inside both Iraq and Syria last year. ISIS jihadist contributed to fatalities in both countries.
“The majority of the [Iraqi] deaths – nearly 8,500 – occurred during the second half of the year following the expansion of the Sunni Muslim Islamic State insurgency in June out of Anbar province leading to widespread clashes with security forces,” reports Reuters.
In June, ISIS launched a major offensive in Iraq, capturing large swaths of territory.
“The month of June registered the highest number of [Iraqi] casualties in 2014, with a total of 4,126 civilian casualties (1,775 killed and 2,351 injured – Anbar included),” reports the U.N.
“From 01 June, when armed violence spread from Anbar to other areas of Iraq, to 31 December 2014 there were a total of 22,292 civilian casualties (8,481 killed and 13,811 injured) (including Police, and including Anbar),” it adds.
The U.K.-based Iraq Body Count (IBC), which monitors violence in that country, blames ISIS and the reintroduction of American and Coalition forces for the rise in civilian deaths in 2014, which it says reached 17,049.
“The rise of the group Islamic State (or ISIS or ISIL) as a major force in the conflict, as well as the military responses by the Iraqi Government and the re-entry of US and Coalition air forces into the conflict, have all contributed to the elevated death tolls,” notes the organization.
“In 2014, largely in connection with the rise of ISIS and the military response to it, the death toll has nearly doubled again, making 2014 the third most lethal for civilians (after 2006 and 2007) since the 2003 invasion,” it concludes. “The continuing killing of civilians has marked the entire period from 2003-2014: sometimes rising, sometimes falling, but never ceasing.”
When accounting for combatant deaths (Iraqi military and ISIS militants), IBC places the death toll at a minimum of 21,000 .
A U.S.-led coalition began launching airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria last summer, eventually helping Kurdish forces on the ground regain control of some of the territory from the jihadists. Nevertheless, ISIS still controls large areas in Iraq and Syria.
Breitbart News reports that 2014 was also the deadliest year in Afghanistan.