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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July 2005, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Iraq's hospitals under strain
By Caroline Hawley
BBC News, Baghdad

Three-month-old Mariam Ghassan receives emergency care at Yarmouk hospital after a bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq
Yarmouk's emergency room alone sees up to 50 victims a day
It is early afternoon in the emergency room of Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital.

Medics are on stand by for a big influx of casualties from a bomb south of Baghdad.

But right now they have a more pressing job.

Several doctors, blood spattered on their white coats, are calmly trying to save the life of a young man who has just been rushed in with a bullet-wound that has punctured his lung.

He appears to have been shot, by mistake, by US troops on the road to Baghdad airport.

On an average day, between 20 and 50 people, injured in unrelenting violence, are treated in the emergency room at Yarmouk alone.

Most have been hurt in insurgent bombs, doctors say. But there is also a steady flow of people coming into Iraqi hospitals who have been injured by US soldiers.

"It's very sad," says Dr Mohaned Rahe, "but things aren't improving."

Across town, in the brutal mid-day heat, simple wooden coffins are being strapped to cars outside Baghdad's main morgue.

'Getting worse'

The morgue director, Dr Faeq Baker, has a shocking statistic.

"On average we have 28 bodies turning up every day - 90% of them victims of violence," he says.

The way things are now, you don't know when you're going to die and who will kill you, the Americans or the insurgents
Nadhem Farhan
Hospital patient

"And we don't even see the people killed by explosions because they don't require autopsies."

Last month, his teams had to deal with over 860 bodies, some of them bound and shot in the head.

A significant number, he believes, have been murdered for sectarian motives.

And several had been wearing handcuffs.

Baker thinks they may have been killed by the Iraqi police.

"From what we're seeing, things are getting worse," says Dr Baker, a forensic pathologist who has studied and worked in London, at Guy's Hospital.

"There are mass killings going on. It is a mess. No-one knows who is killing who. Everything is out of control."

'Caught in the middle'

In the Yarmouk hospital men's ward, a young bomb victim, Omar Attiya, lies beside a 50-year old man, Dhia Abbas, who has gunshots to his back and leg.

He says his car was peppered with bullets by US soldiers as he was driving home from visiting his daughter at 2230 local time (1830 GMT).

Scene of Baghdad car bombing
Violence is a sad feature of daily life in Baghdad

"I thought I was going to die, they just shot and shot and shot," he says. "The roads were empty and maybe they suspected me of something, but there was no warning, they just opened fire."

And there was no warning when Omar Attiya was hit by shrapnel from one of 10 suicide bombings in Baghdad alone last Friday.

In the ward next door, 30-year old Shia Nadhem Farhan is even more seriously injured, his spleen ruptured by gunfire.

He had been in a minibus driving from Najaf to Baghdad, to try to join up to the new Iraqi army.

"I was asleep when the bullets started to hit, but other passengers told me we were shot at by US troops, maybe for getting too close to their convoy".

US convoys are frequently targeted, the soldiers travelling in them, many of whom have lost colleagues, are often jumpy and nervous.

Most Iraqis drive well back from them, for fear of being shot.

"When the Americans first came I was so happy that we were saved from Saddam Hussein," says Farhan.

"Now I feel only hatred. The way things are now, you don't know when you're going to die and who will kill you, the Americans or the insurgents. And civilians, innocent people are being caught in the middle."

Watch an Iraqi doctor going about his daily work

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