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Apr 24th, 2009

More than 60 Dead in Mosque Attack

The Associated Press and Reuters via
April 24, 2009

BAGHDAD — Back-to-back suicide bombings killed 60 people Friday outside the most important Shiite shrine in Baghdad, a day after the country was rocked by its most deadly violence in more than a year.

The bombings Friday and Thursday — in which nearly 80 people were killed — are the latest in a series of high-profile attacks blamed on Sunni insurgents. A new review of available evidence compiled by The Associated Press also suggested that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The bombers Friday detonated explosive belts within minutes of each other near separate gates of the tomb of prominent Shiite saint Imam Mousa al-Kazim, located in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah, according to a police official. Another police official said the bombers struck shortly before the start of Friday prayers as worshippers streamed in to the mosque — an important site for Shiite pilgrims.

Among the dead were 25 Iranian pilgrims, police and a hospital official said. Both said at least 125 people, including 80 Iranian pilgrims, also were injured in the blast. …

Sectarian divide

Analysts say the sectarian divide remains between Shiites and Sunnis that led to tens of thousands being slaughtered, while Kurd-Arab tensions over disputed lands in the north could also provoke renewed conflict.

The shrine has been a favored target of insurgents, most recently in early April when the a bomb left in a plastic bag near the shrine killed seven people and wounded 23.

In January, a man dressed as a woman blew himself up near the shrine, killing more than three dozen people and wounding more than 70. …

Meanwhile, funerals began Friday for those killed in the suicide bombings a day earlier in Baghdad and in Diyala province.

Coffins were loaded on trucks near the Baghdad offices of the Iraqi Red Crescent, whose volunteers were distributing food parcels in central Baghdad when a suicide bomber killed 31 and wounded at least 50 others.


Related reports

Iraq bombings threaten to renew chaos

Iraqi blasts stir worries of insurgent push

Nearly 150 dead in two days of bloodshed; April 2009 already deadliest month in Iraq this year with about 350 Iraqis killed in war-related violence.


Report: 110,600 Iraqis Killed Since Invasion

Image: Bodies in a mass grave in Baqouba, Iraq
Dozens of bodies are laid to rest in a mass grave in Baqouba, Iraq, on December 13, 2008. (Photo credit: AFP — Getty Images)

April 24, 2009

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s government has recorded 87,215 of its citizens killed since 2005 in violence ranging from catastrophic bombings to execution-style slayings, according to statistics obtained by The Associated Press that break open one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war.

Combined with tallies based on hospital sources and media reports since the beginning of the war and an in-depth review of available evidence by The Associated Press, the government figures show that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The number is a minimum count of violent deaths. The official who provided the data to the AP, on condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity, estimated the actual number of deaths at 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who are still missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official records.

The Health Ministry has tallied death certificates since 2005, and late that year the United Nations began using them — along with hospital and morgue figures — to publicly release casualty counts. But by early 2007, when sectarian violence was putting political pressure on the U.S. and Iraqi governments, the Iraqi numbers disappeared. The United Nations “repeatedly asked for that cooperation” to resume but never received a response, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Thursday.

The data obtained by the AP measure only violent deaths — people killed in attacks such as the shootings, bombings, mortar attacks and beheadings that have ravaged Iraq. It excluded indirect factors such as damage to infrastructure, health care and stress that caused thousands more to die.

Authoritative statistics for 2003 and 2004 do not exist. But Iraq Body Count, a private, British-based group, has tallied civilian deaths from media reports and other sources since the war’s start. The AP reviewed the Iraq Body Count analysis and confirmed its conclusions by sifting the data and consulting experts. The AP also interviewed experts involved with previous studies, prominent Iraq analysts and provincial and medical officials to determine that the new tally was credible.

The AP also added its own tabulation of deaths since Feb. 28, the last date in the Health Ministry count.

The three figures add up to more than 110,600 Iraqis who have died in the war. …

Iraq Body Count’s estimate of deaths since the start of the war, excluding police and soldiers, is a range — between 91,466 and 99,861.

‘We have lost everything’

The numbers show just how traumatic the war has been for Iraq. In a nation of 29 million people, the deaths represent 0.38 percent of the population. Proportionally, that would be like the United States losing 1.2 million people to violence in the four-year period; about 17,000 people are murdered every year in the U.S. …

“We have lost everything,” said Badriya Abbas Jabbar, 54. A 2007 truck bombing targeting a market near her Baghdad home killed three granddaughters, a son and a niece. …

The Health Ministry figures indicate such violence was tremendously deadly. Of the 87,215 deaths, 59,957 came in 2006 and 2007, when sectarian attacks soared and death squads roamed the streets. The period was marked by catastrophic bombings and execution-style killings.

Quantifying the loss has always been difficult. Records were not always compiled centrally, and the brutal insurgency sharply limited on-the-scene reporting. The U.S. military never shared its data. …

The AP obtained a two-page computer printout listing yearly totals for death certificates issued for violent deaths by hospitals and morgues between Jan. 1, 2005, and Feb. 28, 2009.

The ministry does not have figures for the first two years of the war because it was devastated in the aftermath of the invasion, the official said.

Experts said the count constitutes an important baseline, albeit an incomplete one. Richard Brennan, who has done mortality research in Congo and Kosovo, said it is likely a “gross underestimate” because many deaths go unrecorded in war zones.

The Iraqi Body Count numbers are likely even more incomplete, given that many killings occurred in incidents journalists were unaware of or in inaccessible areas.

Mass graves have been turning up as improved security allows patrols in formerly off-limits areas, but how many remain will never be known.

The death toll in Iraq has been a hotly disputed subject because of the high political stakes in a war opposed by many countries and by a large portion of the American public. Critics on each side accuse the other of manipulating the death numbers to sway opinion.

While the Pentagon maintains meticulous records of the number of American troops killed — at least 4,276 as of Thursday — it does not publicly release comprehensive Iraqi casualty figures. …

The AP has filed Freedom of Information Act requests since 2005 seeking that data, but has not received it.

The U.S. policy to not fully address civilian deaths has drawn heavy criticism from human rights groups.

“We believe that all warring parties have a duty to keep information on casualties,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch in New York. “It’s one of many factors one needs to analyze compliance with international humanitarian law.”

The AP has tried since the first days of the war to understand how many Iraqis were being killed.

Poor record-keeping

In 2003, AP journalists traveled across Iraq to search hospital records for civilian deaths during the first chaotic month of the invasion. They found that at least 3,240 civilians died that month, including 1,896 in Baghdad, but acknowledged that number was a fraction of the total because record-keeping often fell victim to the bloodshed.

Beginning in May 2005, the AP has tracked war-related casualties as reported by police, hospital and government officials, mosque workers and verifiable witness accounts, breaking down the victims into civilians, soldiers and police. That tally has reached 46,065, including 37,205 civilians, but also underrepresents the true casualty number because many killings go unreported, especially in more remote areas. …

Some experts say casualty tallies based on media reports are inaccurate, because too many deaths go unreported. Some favor cluster surveys, in which conclusions are drawn from a select sampling of households.

The largest cluster survey in Iraq was conducted in 2007 by the World Health Organization and the Iraqi government. It concluded that about 151,000 Iraqis had died from violence in the 2003-05 period, but that included insurgents.

A more controversial cluster study conducted between May and July 2006 by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, published in the Lancet medical journal, estimated that 601,027 Iraqis had died due to violence. The authors said roughly 50,000 more died from nonviolent causes such as heart disease and cancer because of deteriorating health conditions caused by the war.

Critics argue that such surveys are flawed in Iraq because the security situation prevents a proper sampling. They also have margins of error that could skew the numbers by the tens of thousands. …

“The loss of life among those caught up in conflict is tragic whatever the numbers reported,” said Gilbert Burnham, one of authors of the Lancet survey. “And finding approaches which will reduce these deaths is of great importance.”


Related report

Secret tally has 87,215 Iraqis dead since 2005

3 Responses to “2nd Day of Bloodshed in Baghdad”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Massive Bomb Attack on Iraq Govt Says:

    […] April 24, 2009 — Back-to-back female suicide bombings in Kazimiyah, Iraq, kill 71 people outside the most important Shiite shrine in Baghdad. […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Security Breached at U.S. Base Says:

    […] 2nd Day of Bloodshed in Baghdad […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » The Pope’s Easter Message 2011 Says:

    […] Second Day of Bloodshed in Baghdad […]

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