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U.N. Finds Baghdad Toll Far Higher Than Cited
Published on Thursday, September 21, 2006 by the New York Times
U.N. Finds Baghdad Toll Far Higher Than Cited
by Richard A. Oppel Jr.
 

BAGHDAD- A United Nations report released Wednesday says that 5,106 people in Baghdad died violent deaths during July and August, a number far higher than reports that have relied on figures from the city’s morgue.

Across the country, the report found, 3,590 civilians were killed in July — the highest monthly total on record — and 3,009 more were killed in August. There were 4,309 Iraqi civilians reported wounded in August, a 14 percent increase from July.

The report also describes evidence of torture on many of the bodies found in Baghdad, including gouged-out eyeballs and wounds from nails, power drills and acid. “Hundreds of bodies have continued to appear throughout the country bearing signs of severe torture and execution-style killing,” the report found.

As Baghdad has become the main stage for intensified sectarian fighting, the counting of the dead has become a contentious issue. Some American officials say figures released by the Baghdad morgue are inflated. The United Nations report includes the morgue’s figures of 1,855 killed in July and 1,536 killed in August. But it also counts bodies received at other hospitals in the city.

Throughout Baghdad, 2,222 people were killed in August, a 23 percent reduction from the July total of 2,884, the report found. It said the reduction “may be attributed to a degree of improved security” from recent large-scale sweeps by American and Iraqi troops through Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

But the report also said casualties had climbed in other regions, notably in Diyala and Mosul. And it said that while the number of killings decreased at the beginning of August, “further increases were evident towards the end of the month in Baghdad and other governorates.”

While most deaths occurred in Baghdad, the report suggests it may not reflect all casualties from other areas because of difficulties collecting information. Anbar Province, an insurgent haven west of the capital and one of the deadliest regions in Iraq, reported no deaths in July.

Torture remains widespread, not only by death squads but also in official detention centers, according to United Nations officials. The report said some detainees showed signs of beating “using electrical cables, wounds in different parts of their bodies, including in the head and genitals, broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns.”

Bodies found in Baghdad, the report added, often show signs of torture that include “acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails.”

The report was released as American military officials in Baghdad described a sharp rise in executions in the capital and said that terrorists appeared to have intensified efforts to kill American soldiers.

Killings in the capital appear to have risen sharply in the past week, as close to 200 bodies have been found. An Interior Ministry official said 28 bodies were discovered Wednesday. “This past week, there was a spike in execution-style murders in Baghdad,” Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief American military spokesman in Iraq, said Wednesday. “Many bodies found had clear signs of being bound, tortured and executed. We believe death squads and other illegal armed groups are responsible for this type of violence.”

The increased violence around the capital also comes as many children returned to school, leaving anguished parents to decide whether to risk letting them leave the house.

According to a tally by The Associated Press, at least 65 people were killed in Iraq and more than 100 were wounded in documented attacks during the past two days, including one attack Wednesday on a tribal leader’s home in Samarra that killed 10 people and wounded 38.

The American military also reported the deaths of three more soldiers. One was killed Wednesday morning in northeastern Baghdad from small-arms fire, and two died from “noncombat incidents” in Baghdad on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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