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Iraq Cracks: And Now Come the Death Squads
By ANDREW BUNCOMBE and PATRICK COCKBURN
Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations' outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed.
John Pace, who left Baghdad two weeks ago, told us on Sunday that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city's mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. Much of the killing, he said, was carried out by Shia Muslim groups under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.
Much of the statistical information provided to Mr Pace and his team comes from the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute, which is located next to the city's mortuary. He said figures show that last July the morgue alone received 1,100 bodies, about 900 of which bore evidence of torture or summary execution.
The pattern prevailed throughout the year until December, when the number dropped to 780 bodies, about 400 of which had gunshot or torture wounds.
"It's being done by anyone who wishes to wipe out anybody else for various reasons," said Mr Pace, who worked for the UN for more than 40 years in countries ranging from Liberia to Chile. "But the bulk are attributed to the agents of the Ministry of the Interior."
Coupled with the suicide bombings and attacks on Shia holy places carried out by Sunnis, some of whom are followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qa'ida's leader in Iraq, the activities of the death squads are pushing Iraq ever closer to a sectarian civil war.
Mr Pace said the Ministry of the Interior was "acting as a rogue element within the government". It is controlled by the main Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri); the Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, is a former leader of Sciri's Badr Brigade militia, which is one of the main groups accused of carrying out sectarian killings.