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UN Says 34,000 Killed in Iraq Last Year


U.N. officials in Baghdad say more than 34,000 Iraqis perished in violent incidents last year, far more than the government had reported. U.N. experts say it is urgent to strengthen the police, courts, and other institutions to stem the bloodshed. VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad.

The chief of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Iraq, Gianni Magazzeni, says U.N. staffers gathered the information from hospitals and the Ministry of Health. The statistics are grim.

"During 2006, a total of 34,452 civilians have been violently killed and 36,685 wounded," he said.

The report says an average of almost 100 people a day die in Iraq's violence.

These figures are much higher than those from Iraq's government, and government officials have called previous U.N. reports "exaggerated."

This report says the security services have been infiltrated by sectarian militia members and are ineffective.

Magazzeni says the appalling toll will not stop until Iraqis have reason to have faith in their police, courts and other institutions of justice.

"The root causes of the sectarian violence lie in the revenge killings and lack of accountability for past crimes, as well as in the growing sense of impunity for ongoing human rights violations," he added. " This leads people to take the law into their hands or rely on actions by militias or criminal gangs."

In a meeting with journalists in Baghdad, Magazzeni said the lack of security is blocking progress on every front.

"Without significant progress on the rule of law, sectarian violence will continue, indefinitely, and eventually spiral out of control, thus thwarting efforts by the government in the political, economic, or security spheres," he noted.

The government is preparing to launch a security plan backed by more than 20,000 U.S. reinforcements. It includes a major crackdown on sectarian killers in Baghdad, including militias loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and other Shi'ite allies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Besides deaths, the U.N. report said nearly 31,000 have been detained in the country, a bit less than half are being held in detention facilities run by U.S.-led multi-national forces. The violence has also forced more than 470,000 people to relocate in Iraq.

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