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Last Updated:  Sunday, 6 April, 2003, 21:19 GMT 22:19 UK
Counting the victims of Iraq war

By David Chazan
BBC News

One of the biggest and as yet unanswered questions about the war in Iraq is how many people have been killed.

With Baghdad under intensive bombardment, the International Red Cross says so many injured are arriving at hospitals that no one can keep track of the numbers.

An Iraqi man surrounded by coffins of his family
Iraq says more than 1,200 civilians have been killed
But the ICRC is estimating that at the height of the bombardment on Sunday, they were receiving injured people at the rate of 100 an hour.

The American and British forces pride themselves on hitting military targets and sparing civilian lives. But the bombs don't always fall where they're meant to.

There have been a number of so-called friendly fire incidents. The BBC's John Simpson witnessed one on Sunday.

The Americans say they've lost at least 80 soldiers in Iraq and eight are missing. Twenty-seven British soldiers have been killed. But how many Iraqi soldiers have died?

Guesswork

The Iraqi authorities have given no figures. The Americans say they killed some 2,000 Iraqi fighters during their incursion into southern Baghdad on Saturday.

But there's no independent confirmation and Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said it was only an estimate.

"We're talking about the results of combat action in this case that in many cases results in physical destruction of human beings," he said.

"You can't always make an accurate count. We certainly aren't stopping to count. And so the practice of laying out numbers is something that I've personally tried to stay away from for that reason."

Body count website

As for the Iraqi authorities, they may not be announcing military deaths but their estimate of the number of civilians killed is 1,252, and more than 5,000 injured.

But there is a propaganda war raging in parallel to the military conflict.

An independent website has been set up to try to keep track of the body count.

They're collating figures from news reports and they give two figures.

On Sunday they showed a maximum estimate of 1049 civilians killed and a minimum of 876.




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