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Iraq Claims Hundreds of Civilians Killed in War - 2003-03-27

Iraq claims thousands of Iraqi civilians have been wounded and hundreds killed as the result of the first week of war.

Iraq's minister of health says 350 Iraqi civilians have been killed and more than 4,000 injured since the war began last week.

Minister Umid Midhat Mubarak says 36 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Baghdad since Wednesday. In the southern city of Basra, he said, a very dramatic humanitarian situation exists and that 13 people were killed and 51 injured by cluster bombs late Wednesday.

It is impossible to verify Iraq's claims.

Mr. Mubarak says Iraq's medical system has been able to handle the casualties. "Our morale situation is excellent," he said. "Our dispensaries, our medical centers, even the maternity hospitals and the pediatric hospitals are practicing their usual activities, although we have provided facilities as well, to provide emergency services to save lives."

Senior coalition officers and political leaders say all efforts are being made to avoid causing civilian casualties. But they say Iraq is placing troops and heavy weapons close to the civilian population, sharply increasing the chances civilians will be harmed.

On Wednesday, Iraq blamed the coalition for a strike on a market in Baghdad that Iraqi officials say killed 15 people. Coalition officials say they cannot confirm it was one of their bombs that hit the market. They say the residential area is fewer than 100 meters from an Iraqi missile launching site.

The coalition also reported its forces seized a hospital in the southern city of Nasiriyah that was being used to hide a tank, 200 weapons, and other military equipment.

Iraq's health minister said Iraq is ready to receive humanitarian supplies, but he said there are no U.N. representatives in Iraq to take possession of them.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has a few teams operating in Iraq.