Wednesday, October 11, 2006

2,660 Iraqi civilians killed in Sept.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - More than 2,660 Iraqi civilians were killed in the capital in September amid a wave of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks, an increase of 400 over the month before, according to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry.

The increase came despite an intensified U.S.-Iraqi sweep of Baghdad that was launched in mid-August to try to put down the wave of violence that has swept over the capital. The violence consists of a deadly combination of bombings and shootings by Sunni insurgents, and slayings by Shiite and Sunni death squads.
The figures for the number of civilian deaths in September in Baghdad came in an official monthly report from the Health Ministry to the Cabinet on the number of Baghdad victims of violent deaths, two senior ministry officials told The Associated Press.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the government has issued orders that the death figures not be released. Civilian casualty numbers are always sensitive, and several other officials in the Health and Interior ministries contacted by the AP refused to give statistics.

The report said 2,667 civilians had died violent deaths in September — an average of 89 a day. Those deaths include bodies found dumped around Baghdad and the victims of explosions, shootings and other attacks, the two officials said.

By comparison, 2,222 people died violently in August in Baghdad, according to a U.N. report published in September, which is also based on official statistics from the Health Ministry.

The two ministry officials said the U.N. number was accurate for the August deaths.

The monthly figures include two categories. One is the number of bodies found in Baghdad, provided from the city morgue, where the bodies are taken to determine the cause of death.

In September, the morgue reported 1,471 bodies of people who died from violence.

Shiite and Sunni death squads are known to kidnap members of the opposing sect, then dump bodies of their victims, often bound and tortured. So a large proportion of the 1,471 bodies are likely from sectarian killings — though they also would include victims of criminal kidnappings and murders.

The other category included in the monthly figure encompasses the victims of explosions, shootings or other attacks, reported by hospitals. They numbered 1,196 in September, according to the report, the two Health Ministry officials said.

In August, 1,536 bodies were brought to the morgue, according to the U.N. report.

The past summer has seen a startling increase in bloodshed, centered in the capital, after the wave of sectarian violence was sparked by the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

The deadliest month was July, when 3,590 people were killed across the country — 2,884 of them in Baghdad, according to the U.N. The number killed countrywide fell in August to 3,009, the U.N. said.

The Health Ministry officials who spoke to the AP did not have September figures for the entire country, only for Baghdad.

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