- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

12:44 p.m.

BAGHDAD — The United Nations said today that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian violence last year, nearly three times the number reported dead by the Iraqi government.

Underscoring the peril faced by Iraqis, Baghdad was struck by two bombings apparently targeting Shi’ite neighborhoods. One near a university as students were leaving classes for the day killed at least 65, and another at a used-motorcycle marketplace killed at least 15.

The first bomb was attached to a motorcycle in the market. As the curious gathered to look at the aftermath, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd and blew up his vehicle. The attack appeared to target the mainly Shi’ite neighborhood near the market but also was near the Sheik al-Gailani shrine, one of the holiest Sunni locations in the capital.

In the second attack, two minivans exploded near Al-Mustansiriya University as the students were boarding the vehicles to go home.

The Iraqi government yesterday hanged two of Saddam Hussein’s henchmen in an execution that left many of the ousted leader’s fellow Sunni Muslims seething after one of the accused, the ousted leader’s half-brother, was decapitated on the gallows.

Baghdad is bracing for a security operation by the Iraqi government and U.S. forces aimed at quelling the rampant sectarian violence that has been on the rise since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shi’ite mosque in Samarra.

Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq in Baghdad, said 34,452 civilians were killed and 36,685 were wounded last year.

The Iraqi Health Ministry did not comment on the U.N. report, which was based on information released by the Iraqi government and hospitals. The government has disputed previous figures released by the United Nations as “inaccurate and exaggerated.”

Iraqi government figures announced in early January put last year’s civilian death toll at 12,357. When asked about the difference, Mr. Magazzeni said the U.N. figures were compiled from information obtained through the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospitals across the country and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad.

The U.N. report also said that 30,842 persons were detained in the country as of Dec. 31, including 14,534 in detention facilities run by U.S.-led multinational forces.

It pointed to killings targeting police, who are seen by insurgents as collaborating with the U.S. effort in Iraq. The report said the Interior Ministry had reported on Dec. 24 that 12,000 police officers had been killed since the war started in 2003.

The report also painted a grim picture for other sectors of Iraqi society, saying the violence has disrupted education by forcing schools and universities to close as well as sending professionals fleeing from the country. At least 470,094 persons throughout Iraq have been forced to leave their homes since the bombing in Samarra, according to the report.

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