UN to stop publishing Iraqi casualty figures after criticism from Baghdad

Iraqi-Army.jpg

Iraqi army forces. File photo

ARA News

Erbil – After facing heavy criticism from the War Media Cell of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said on Saturday that they will stop recording casualty figures in the ongoing conflict.

The Iraqi government worries publishing casualty figures would hurt the morale of the Iraqi troops that are in fight with Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants.

On Friday, UNAMI said that at least 1,959 members of the Iraqi security forces have been killed since the launch of the anti-ISIS Mosul operation on 17 October.

This includes Kurdish Peshmerga forces, SWAT forces, members of the Shia paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), police forces and the Iraqi Army.

“UNAMI has been relying on a variety of sources, including open sources, to compile military casualty statistics. Previous requests by the Mission to the relevant Government Ministries for verification of military casualty figures have not received a response,” the UN organization said.

“As such the Mission shall discontinue the publication of military casualty figures unless a sound methodology of verification can be found to better substantiate the figures being reported,” UNAMI said in a statement on Saturday.

Joint Operations Command of the Iraqi Army was angered by the UN statement, fearing publishing the casualty figures would hurt Iraqi military morale.

“Again inaccurate reports in the name of UN office in Baghdad were published. These included reporting false information and figures published in the media, where the report indicate 1959 Iraqi security forces were killed in action during the month of November 2016,” the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said.

“It turns out that this figure is not accurate and much exaggerated,” it added.

The UN statement is expected to worsen the relations between the UN and the Iraqi government, which does not publish any casualty figures.

“Joint Operations Command ensures that all international organizations and media should envisage the accuracy of the reports and draw information from official sources, because the dissemination of false and fabricated news comes in favor of Daesh [ISIS] which is working on exaggerations intended to influence the course of Nineveh operations,” the Iraqi command said.

However, according to Aymen Jawad al-Tamimi, a researcher at the Middle East Forum, the Iraqi government tries to minimize casualty figures in a bid to maintain a high morale among its forces.

“Clearly the Baghdad government’s priority is to minimize casualty figures to avoid demoralization,” al-Tamim told ARA News.

“It’s worth comparing with ISIS’ figures via [semi-official ISIS news agency] Amaq. [They said] 2671 army and Peshmerga forces have been killed between 17 Oct-17 Nov,” he said.

Al-Tamimi added that the UN statement could hurt the Iraqi morale. “Particularly if it’s seen as roughly agreeing with ISIS statistics,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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