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http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1021466,00.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 warbegan. 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." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk