Close to 19,000 civilians were killed in the ongoing conflict in Iraq over a 21-month period with most of the deaths attributed to the rise of terrorist group ISIS.
The count of civilian casualties in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 totaled at least 55,047, with 18,802 of the civilians killed and 36,245 injured, according to a new United Nations report released Tuesday.
The report, published jointly by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, cast light on the murders, abductions, and other human rights crimes ISIS has committed in its effort to expand its reach.
ISIS is largely faulted for the high count of casualties, which investigators said could be significantly higher than the number they were able to verify using testimony from survivors and witnesses. The report also said that the number of civilians who have died as a result of secondary effects of the conflict, such as lack of access to water and medical help, is unknown.
Nearly 11,000 of the civilian casualties were recorded between May and October 2015, with at minimum 3,855 civilians killed and 7,056 wounded during that six-month period.
Violence in the region has also displaced millions of individuals, many of them school-aged children. According to the report, 3,206,736 individuals became internally displaced in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015, about a third of them school-aged girls and boys. The vast majority of displaced individuals originated from the Anbar, Ninawa, and Salah al-Din provinces.
The report presented information on the specific actions ISIS took to expand its control in Iraq last year, including successful efforts to gain control of Ramadi and Iraq’s largest oil refinery, both of which Iraq’s security forces have battled to reclaim. It also detailed many of the murders and abductions that have been attributed to ISIS, noting that the terror group’s violent acts in some cases may amount to "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide."
"During the reporting period, ISIL killed and abducted scores of civilians, often in a targeted manner. Victims include those perceived to be opposed to ISIL ideology and rule; persons affiliated with the Government, such as former Iraqi security forces (ISF), police officers, former public officials and electoral workers; professionals, such as doctors and lawyers; journalists; and tribal and religious leaders," the report read, using another name for ISIS.
"Others have been abducted and/or killed on the pretext of aiding or providing information to Government security forces. Many have been subjected to adjudication by ISIL self-appointed courts which, in addition to ordering the murder of countless people, have imposed grim punishments such as stoning and amputations."
It also noted that women and children are particularly vulnerable to the terror group’s actions, given reports of sexual assault, sexual slavery, and its forcible recruitment of children to commit violence. U.N. officials estimated that ISIS holds 3,500 slaves in Iraq.