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'1,300 dead' in Iraq sectarian violence
As many as 1,300 people could have died in the wave of sectarian violence that swept Iraq following the bombing of a gold-domed shrine in Samarra, it was reported today.
The Washington Post said officials at Baghdad's main morgue had logged more than 1,300 deaths since the attack on the al-Askari shrine - one of the holiest sites in Shia Iraq - on Wednesday.
Most of the dead had been shot, knifed or garroted, often with their hands tied execution-style behind their backs, the report said.
It added that the blood-caked bodies of hundreds of men lay unclaimed outside the morgue as distraught families searched for missing relatives yesterday.
Figures from the Iraqi police statistics department put the nationwide toll of violent deaths at 1,020 since the Samarra bombing, with the majority killed after being abducted by armed men.
Iraqi government officials and the US military, however, said the toll was lower and stood at 119 by Saturday. They accused the media of exaggerating the violence between the Sunni and Shia communities.
The acting director of the Baghdad morgue disputed the Washington Post's report. Abdelrazzak al-Obeidi told Reuters that his unit alone had received 240 bodies since Wednesday, nearly all victims of violence.
He said the rate of such killings was 70% above average for the six days since Wednesday, based on a figure of 8,060 deaths from violence recorded at the morgue in 2005 - 155 deaths a week.
Not all Iraqi deaths in Baghdad are recorded in the central morgue, but it sees a high proportion of those who die violently. Other deaths are more typically recorded at hospitals.