Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Over 34,000 Civilians Died in Iraq Last Year

The following information comes from an article in this morning's New York Times by SABRINA TAVERNISE.

Iraqi Death Toll Exceeded 34,000 in '06, U.N. Says.

According to a UN report released yesterday, more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence last year, that is an average of 94 Iraqis died every day. About half the deaths occurred in the capital. A majority died from gunshot wounds, execution-style, killings that are a common method for both Sunni and Shiite death squads.

Most of the deaths are due to violence between Sunnis and Shiites, which was virtually unheard of in the early years of the war. Military commanders have acknowledged that they underestimated the seriousness of the sectarian killings, which took off after the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra last year drew Shiites into the war. Up until then, Sunni militants had done most of the killing. Now, the capital is mired in violence, as the two groups fight over territory.

In the shootings, bodies surface days later in sewers and garbage dumps. The report said that most unidentified bodies were found in six neighborhoods of Baghdad, three Sunni — Dora, Rashidiya and Adhamiya — and three Shiite — Sadr City, New Baghdad and the hardscrabble slum of Shuala.

One result, described by the report, is a society in collapse. At least 470,094 Iraqis have fled their homes since February. The number of displaced Iraqis was the highest in the embattled Sunni province of Anbar, where 10,105 families fled, followed by Karbala in the south, Baghdad, and Dohuk in the north.

Iraqi government forces also suffered painful losses. The report cited an Interior Ministry figure of 12,000 Iraqi security forces killed, both the Army and the police, since 2003.

The report provided details on the outcomes of a number of mass kidnappings throughout the fall. The attacks seem to be a signature of Shiite militias.

Around 70 Iraqis, almost all Sunnis, are still missing after being kidnapped in November from the Ministry of Higher Education in downtown Baghdad. The attack took place on a day when teachers from the Sunni areas of Anbar, Salahuddin and Mosul were visiting.

The kidnappings have completely redrawn the composition of neighborhoods. Sinek, a wholesale market in the heart of Baghdad, once thoroughly mixed, is slowly emptying of Sunnis. Men in uniforms seized around 50 merchants on Dec. 2. About 29 were later released. All were Shiite.