Survey: Saddam killed 61,000 in Baghdad
( 2003-12-09 08:49) (Agencies)
Saddam Hussein's government may have executed 61,000 Baghdad residents, a number significantly higher than previously believed, according to a survey obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
The bloodiest massacres of Saddam's 23-year presidency occurred in Iraq's Kurdish north and Shiite Muslim south, but the Gallup Baghdad Survey data indicates the brutality extended strongly into the capital as well.
The survey, which the polling firm planned to release on Tuesday, asked 1,178 Baghdad residents in August and September whether a member of their household had been executed by Saddam's regime. According to Gallup, 6.6 percent said yes.
The polling firm took metropolitan Baghdad's population ¡ª 6.39 million ¡ª and average household size ¡ª 6.9 people ¡ª to calculate that 61,000 people were executed during Saddam's rule. Past estimates were in the low tens of thousands. Most are believed to have been buried in mass graves.
The U.S.-led occupation authority in Iraq has said that at least 300,000 people are buried in mass graves in Iraq. Human rights officials put the number closer to 500,000, and some Iraqi political parties estimate more than 1 million were executed.
Without exhumations of those graves, it is impossible to confirm a figure. Scientists told The Associated Press during a recent investigation that they have confirmed 41 mass graves on a list of suspected sites that currently includes 270 locations.
Forensic teams will begin to exhume four of those graves next month in search of evidence for a new tribunal, expected to be established this week, that will try members of the former regime for crimes against humanity and genocide. More graves will later be added to the list.
But nobody expects all the mass graves to be exhumed, and nobody expects to ever know the full number of Iraqis executed by their government.
Richard Burkholder, who headed Gallup's Baghdad team, said the numbers in Baghdad could be high for two reasons: People may have understood "household" to be broader than just the people living at their address; and some families may have moved to the capital from other areas since the executions occurred.
"Anecdotal accounts start to support it, but they don't get you to 60,000," he said in a telephone interview from Princeton, N.J.
Even reducing the numbers slightly because of those possibilities, however, Burkholder said the number of executions the data suggest is higher than previously estimated, in the low tens of thousands.
The deadliest atrocity associated with Saddam's government was the scorched-earth campaign known as the "Anfal," in which the government killed an estimated 180,000 Kurds in Iraq's far north. Many were buried in mass graves far from home in the southern desert.
Another 60,000 people are believed to have been killed when Saddam violently suppressed rebellions by Shiite Muslims in the south and Kurds in the north at the close of the 1991 Gulf War.
Sandra Hodgkinson, director of the U.S.-led occupation authority's human rights office, estimated that some 50,000 others were executed during Saddam's reign, including Kurds killed in chemical attacks and political prisoners sent to execution.
That 50,000 figure also would include prisoners killed in Baghdad.
The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, was conducted in face-to-face interviews in Baghdad residents' homes from Aug. 28 and Sept. 4.
The people were selected at random from all geographic sectors of the Baghdad metropolitan area, and more than nine in 10 agreed to participate. That's at least double the response rate for many U.S. telephone polls.
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