Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Iraqis bear the brunt of nation's violence

MOUNTING DEATHS While the US troop death toll has reached 2,000, figures show that Iraqis are in the main line of fire, with about 60 killed every day

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BAGHDAD

An Iraqi commando, accompanied by US soldiers from the 2-22 Infantry 10th Mountain Division MiTT team, screams toward Iraqi civilians to avoid an area around the site of an unexploded improvised explosive device, or IED, after it was discovered by US forces patrolling the area, in western Baghdad on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AFP

The scene was grimly familiar. Three car bombs in rapid succession sent plumes of smoke into the evening sky. The target was foreign reporters and contractors inside two hotels here. But the victims, as is often the case, were Iraqis.

The war here has claimed the life of the 2,000th US soldier, but in the cold calculus of the killing here, far more Iraqis have been left dead. The figures vary widely, with Iraqi and US officials reluctant to release even the most incomplete of tallies.

In one count, compiled by Iraq Body Count, a US-based nonprofit group that tracks the deaths using news media reports, the total of Iraqi dead since the US invasion ranges from 26,690 to 30,051.

Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, a nonprofit research group, who has analyzed statistics of US deaths in Iraq, called the group's count "the best guesstimate in town," but warned that the figures were far from complete.

Coordinated attack

Monday's bombs, which exploded near the Palestine and Sheraton Hotels in central Baghdad, added at least 10 people to the tally, according to Iraq's Interior Ministry. They were coordinated for maximum damage, exploding just after sunset, when Iraqis were breaking their daily fast for Ramadan.

The second bomb, carried in a Jeep Cherokee, killed the largest number of people, including a 19-year-old named Beshir, whose mother wandered aimlessly through the wreckage on Monday night, searching for his body.

"He told me he would leave this dangerous area," said the woman, who was crying and speaking to other women. "Death took him from me before he fulfilled his promise."

The US military said last week that sweeps it has conducted with Iraqi troops throughout Iraq have brought the number of suicide attacks down sharply, with 22 attacks this month, compared with 58 in June, not including Monday's blasts.

But the drop in suicide attacks comes amid an overall rise in violence and a shift in the nature of the killing.

Shortly after the US invaded, insurgent attacks were aimed almost exclusively at US troops, but as the months passed, Iraqis -- civilians, police officers and soldiers -- have suffered far greater losses, as insurgents, seeking maximum effect, focus their attacks on the softest targets.

Monday night was the sixth time Wisam Salah's neighborhood, in Firdos Square near the hotels, was attacked. On Tuesday evening, Salah, who is Beshir's cousin, was on the street near his home clearing rubble and hanging a door back on its hinges. He spoke angrily about foreigners.

They make the area more dangerous for Iraqis, he said.

"They want us as armor for their bodies," he said, his face hard. "They are responsible for this."

An offer of canned beans, rice and sugar from US troops on Tuesday afternoon felt particularly insulting.

"Are they making fun of us?" he said, angrily. "Will this bring back those we lost?"

Civilians do appear to be dying at a faster pace. Cordesman found in a recent analysis of US figures that more than 60 Iraqis are killed daily, compared with 40 last year.

Adult males make up 82 percent of all Iraqis killed since the US invasion, a study released by Iraq Body Count in July said.

Children account for about 10 percent of the total, with women accounting for about 8 percent, according to the study.

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