Iraq rights ministry says 85,000 killed in 2004-08

Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:10pm EDT

* Toll reached by death certificate count at health ministry

* Nearly 150,000 wounded in 2004-2008 period



BAGHDAD, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Iraq's human rights ministry said on Tuesday that at least 85,000 people had been killed by bombs, murders and fighting in 2004-08, in a rare death toll release by an Iraqi government agency.

Mayhem and bitter clashes erupted after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, followed by years of sectarian carnage that has only recently begun to abate. The number of people killed by U.S. and Iraqi forces or insurgents remains highly contentious.

"Outlawed groups through terrorist attacks like explosions, assassinations, kidnappings or forced displacements created these terrible figures, which represent a huge challenge for the rule of law and for the Iraqi people," the ministry said.

"These figures draw a picture about the impact of terrorism and the violation of natural life in Iraq," the ministry said in a draft report on deaths in Iraq.

The report -- which only represents death certificates issued by the health ministry -- also said that 147,195 people had been wounded from 2004 to the end of October 2008.

The data makes no distinction between civilians and others.

A senior rights ministry official said that the report did not include missing persons, estimated at around 10,000 people.

The report said some 15,000 unidentified bodies were found in the period. "Thousands of Iraqis killed since 2003 without being identified by their relatives were buried in special cemeteries called unidentified body cemeteries," it said.

Iraq has seen a sharp decline in attacks in the last two years after Washington sent thousands of extra troops and built alliances with tribal leaders to fight al Qaeda and militias.

Despite the fall in violence, roadside bombs and murders remain common in a nation trying to rebuild its tattered infrastructure and economy after years of war and destruction.

The Iraq Body Count -- a group run by academics and peace activists -- estimated that between 88,000 and 97,000 civilians were killed from 2003 to November 2008. (Reporting by Waleed Ibrahim; Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Robin Pomeroy



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