The duration may have seemed short, but the human cost for Iraqis was high.

The US military and coalition forces have maintained comprehensive records of their soldiers killed, wounded, lost or taken as prisoners of war (POW).

As for estimated Iraqi deaths, US forces spokesmen said - especially during the war - that keeping an accurate account would be impossible.

"We don't do [enemy] body counts," General Tommy Franks, commander of US forces in Iraq during the war, famously said when answering a question from reporters.

"We don't do [enemy] body counts"

US General Tommy Franks

In response, the New-York-based organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) started a database estimate of Iraqis killed. It produced a report, using numerous sources, in December 2003 entitled Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq. 

It stated that: "Thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed or injured during the three weeks of fighting from the first air strikes on 20 March to 9 April 2003, when Baghdad fell to US-led coalition forces."

However, the organisation's stated aim of the report was not to quantify civilian deaths during the war but to understand the circumstances that led to them.

Cluster-bomb deaths

Significant incidences of Iraqi civilian casualties in the air and ground war and post-conflict period were highlighted. For example, the report said: "The widespread use of cluster munitions, especially by US and UK ground forces, caused at least hundreds of civilian casualties."

There are no official figures for
the number of Iraqi deaths

The report did not account for deaths due to post-war operations, nor did it concentrate on the estimates of the injured or maimed at any time (even during war), nor of the present occupation or Iraqi resistance attacks that have killed many. (However, the death toll of US soldiers killed is frequently reported by US and international media.)

A number of other organisations have also collected data based on daily news reports, surveys and interviews. They have estimated Iraqi civilian and troop casualties using a variety of methodologies.

For example, the Associated Press news agency compiled a sample of Iraq's 124 hospitals immediately after the war and calculated that at least "3420 civilians died". "The complete toll – if ever it is tallied - is sure to be significantly higher."

Hospitals surveyed

The Los Angeles Times carried out a survey of 27 hospitals in Baghdad and outlying areas and found that at least 1700 civilians died and more than 8000 were injured in the capital during the war.

Another report, produced on 12 November 2003 by the British Medact (an affiliate of the non-profit organisation International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War), estimated that the total Iraqi casualties from the war could range from 21,700 to 55,000.

The same study estimated Iraqi military casualties at between 13,500 and 45,000.

As for Iraq Body Count, a volunteer group of British and US academics and researchers, it has compiled an estimate from a wide variety of sources, including official hospital reports, Iraqi organisations and news wires, and has estimated that the total Iraqi death toll due to the war ranges from 8249 to 10,093 (as of February 2004). The count is updated on a regular basis.

The estimate for injured or maimed from the Iraq war and occupation runs much higher.