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[casi] Mass graves to reveal Iraq war toll,2763,1021466,00.html

Mass graves to reveal Iraq war toll

Jamie Wilson in Baghdad
Tuesday August 19, 2003
The Guardian

The task of identifying thousands of Iraqi soldiers and
civilians who died during this year's war has begun with the
exhumation of a mass grave at one of Saddam Hussein's former
palaces in Baghdad.

The Iraqi Red Crescent, the Islamic version of the Red
Cross, which is coordinating the exhumations, said 45 bodies
had been recovered since vthe palace beside the Tigris
river, now used as the coalition headquarters.

Nobody knows exactly how many Iraqis died in the war, but an
Anglo-American research group, the Iraq Body Count, has
estimated the number of civilian fatalities at between 6,000
and 7,800. The number of military casualties is between
10,000 and 45,000.

"It is very important for the families to get the bodies
back, but this has to be done in an organised, respectful
and scientific way," said Nada Doumani, of the International
Committee of the Red Cross, who estimated that there were
between 10 and 15 mass graves in Baghdad.

The volunteers carefully remove the bodies, which are
checked for anything that may identify them.

If that fails they are taken to the Medico-Legal Institute
in Baghdad, where they are forensically examined.

Those that remain unclaimed after 10 days will then be
reburied in a marked temporary grave at a public cemetery,
until somebody comes forward to claim them.

Many places where retreating Iraqi troops or arriving
Americans buried the dead are known to locals, but the Red
Crescent has urged people not to disturb the graves in order
to avoid the destruction of identification evidence.

Ali Ismael Ahmed, the Red Crescent official in charge of
exhuming bodies at the presidential palace and other sites
in Baghdad, thought that the biggest mass graves in Baghdad
were likely to be at the airport. But the Red Crescent had
not been told when, or even if, it would be allowed to start
exhuming bodies from the site.

Mr Ahmed said that some families were unlikely to ever get
the bodies of their relatives back.

"During the war the American soldiers told my volunteers not
to go near the bodies in burnt-out tanks, because they would
almost certainly have been attacked with depleted uranium,"
he said.

"We never knew what the Americans did with these bodies, and
we probably never will."

Another problem the Red Crescent faces is creating a
comprehensive list of those who are missing. They have asked
families to register missing loved ones at local offices.

Hussein Abdul Razaq, 49, a taxi driver, was one of those at
the Red Cross centre in Baghdad yesterday. His son Ala, 21,
was in the air defence, based at Deir, near Basra. Mr Razaq
has not heard from him since March 18, two days before the

He said that his son had wanted to desert from the army. "I
encouraged him to go. If I had not pushed him to go back
they would have executed all of us, his whole family. I did
not expect to see him again, I saw death on his own face, I
knew he was not coming back."

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