BAGHDAD, Iraq - A stunning new death count emerged Thursday, as Iraq's health
minister estimated 150,000 civilians have been killed in the war - about
three times previously accepted estimates.
Moderate Sunni Muslims, meanwhile, threatened to walk away from politics and
pick up guns, while the Shiite-dominated government renewed pressure on the
United States to unleash the Iraqi army and claimed it could crush violence in
After Democrats swept to
majorities in both houses of the US Congress and Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld resigned, Iraqis appeared unsettled and seemed to sense the potential
for an even bloodier conflict because future American policy is uncertain. As a
result, positions hardened on both sides of the country's deepening sectarian
prepare bodies for funerals outside the morgue in Baqouba, 60 kilometers
(35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006. Iraqi
police found five bullet riddled bodies in the suburb of Baqouba,
provincial police said. [AP]
Previous estimates of Iraq deaths held that 45,000-50,000 have been killed in
the nearly 44-month-old conflict, according to partial figures from Iraqi
institutions and media reports. No official count has ever been available.
Health Minister Ali al-Shemari gave his new estimate of 150,000 to reporters
during a visit to Vienna, Austria. He later told The Associated Press that he
based the 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
Hassan Salem, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or
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.
In October, the British medical journal The Lancet published a controversial
study contending nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war - a far
higher death toll than other estimates. The study, which was dismissed by
President Bush and other US officials as not credible, was based on interviews
of households and not a body count.
Al-Shemari disputed that figure Thursday.
"Since three and a half years, since the change of the Saddam regime, some
people say we have 600,000 are killed. This is an exaggerated number. I think
150 is OK," he said.
Accurate figures on the number of people who have died in the Iraq conflict
have long been the subject of debate. Police and hospitals often give widely
conflicting figures of those killed in major bombings. In addition, death
figures are reported through multiple channels by government agencies that
function with varying efficiency.