Sat, Nov 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Iraqi death toll estimates go as high as 150,000

AFP AND AP , BAGHDAD

Iraq's health ministry said yesterday that between 100,000 and 150,000 people have been killed since the 2003 US-led invasion, after earlier presenting the higher figure.

Health Minister Ali al-Shamari was quoted in the media on Thursday in Vienna as saying that 150,000 people had died since the invasion.

An official with the ministry also confirmed the figure yesterday, but later said that the estimated deaths ranged between 100,000 and 150,000.

"The minister was misquoted. He said between 100,000-150,000 people were killed in three-and-a-half years," the official said.

"These were killed during military confrontations, assassinations and sectarian assassinations," the official said, adding that between 70 and 80 people were dying in violence each day.

He said the ministry had started keeping records in early 2004, effectively meaning that those killed during the actual invasion and in the ensuing months were not included in this figure.

Al-Shemari said on Thursday that he based his figure on an estimate of 100 bodies per day brought to morgues and hospitals -- though such a calculation would come out closer to 130,000 in total.

"It is an estimate," he said.

He blamed Sunni insurgents, Wahhabis -- Sunni religious extremists -- and criminal gangs for the deaths.

Hassan Salem, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) said the 150,000 figure included civilians, police and the bodies of people who were abducted, later found dead and collected at morgues run by the Health Ministry.

SCIRI is Iraq's largest Shiite political organization and holds the largest number of seats in parliament.

The number of dead has been a controversial topic of repeated speculation. Most estimates, such as those by the Iraq Body Count project, have put the figure at between 50,000 and 60,000.

Last month the British medical journal The Lancet published a report estimating that 650,000 people had actually died since the invasion, based on extrapolations from people interviewed.

The figure has been dismissed as wildly exaggerated by the Iraqi government, press agencies and the US military, which itself will not release data on civilian casualties in Iraq.

Iraq's health ministry is controlled by supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and has often been accused by US authorities of exaggerating casualty counts.

Meanwhile, the head of the Baghdad central morgue said on Thursday he was receiving as many as 60 violent death victims each day at his facility alone.

Dr. Abdul-Razzaq al-Obaidi said those deaths did not include victims of violence whose bodies were taken to the city's many hospital morgues or those who were removed from attack scenes by relatives and quickly buried according to Muslim custom.

He said the morgue had received 1,600 violent death victims last month.

US forces suffered 105 deaths last month.

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