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Study: 500,000 Iraqis died due to war

A decade after the U.S. invasion, Iraq remains a dangerous place.
Iraq Violence
A woman weeps for her relative, slain priest Wassem Sabieh, during his funeral in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010.

Some half a million Iraqis perished during the eight years of conflict that followed the U.S.-led invasion and in 2003, according to a new study. The war that brought down Saddam Hussein’s government may officially be over, but a full picture of the suffering created by the fighting has yet to emerge.

A study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine surveyed 2,000 randomly selected households in Iraq. It found that nearly two thirds of deaths that occurred because of the conflict were violent, and that approximately 40% could be tied to the breakdown of basic services caused by the destruction of the country.

The researchers who conducted the survey found a grim picture of life and death between 2003 and 2011. At the height of the war in 2006, Iraqi men were three times as likely to die as they were before the war, and women were at a 70% higher risk of death.

While the U.S. ended its combat operations in Iraq in 2011, violence has continued, hitting its highest levels since 2008 in recent months. More than 6,000 people have been killed this year alone, a full decade after the invasion. The civil war in Syria has strenghtened radical groups, and sectarian violence has skyrocketed.

The report's findings add urgency to recent efforts to renew and reform an American program designed to provide special visas to Iraqis who helped U.S. interests during the war. President Obama signed a three-month extension of the Special Immigrant Visa program on October 4th, three days after it was set to expire. A small fraction of those eligible for the program have been granted visas, and former interpreters have reported threats of violence as a result of their work.