washingtonpost.com
Baghdad Morgue Tallies 1,815 Bodies in July
As Violence Spikes, U.S. Puts Onus on Iraqis in Second Phase of Crackdown

By Andy Mosher
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 10, 2006

BAGHDAD, Aug. 9 -- Figures compiled by the city morgue indicated Wednesday that the number of killings in the Iraqi capital reached a new high last month, and the U.S. military said a new effort to bring security to Baghdad will succeed only if Iraqis "want it to work."

The Baghdad morgue took in 1,815 bodies during July, news services quoted the facility's assistant manager, Abdul Razzaq al-Obeidi, as saying. The previous month's tally was 1,595. Obeidi estimated that as many as 90 percent of the total died violent deaths.

Since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in the northern town of Samarra in late February, Baghdad has been ravaged by sectarian violence. Shiite militiamen conduct almost nightly raids on Sunni neighborhoods, and Sunni insurgents frequently bomb Shiite mosques and other gathering places. A report from the United Nations combining morgue and hospital body counts for June showed that, on average, more than 100 people were being killed every day.

On Tuesday, the U.S. military announced the start of the second phase of a U.S.-Iraqi crackdown aimed at securing Baghdad known as Operation Forward Together. A key element of the new phase is the transfer of thousands of U.S. troops to Baghdad from elsewhere in Iraq, but the military's top spokesman told reporters Wednesday that force of arms alone cannot bring peace to the capital.

"The key thing about this operation is that . . . it counts on the Iraqi citizens," said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell. "They have to be involved. The Iraqi people have to want this to work. If they are not involved, if they're not willing to commit, if they're not willing to be a part of the solution, then there is no solution."

Cautioning that "military force alone cannot achieve peace, it can only set the conditions to allow for peace to take hold and to grow," Caldwell said that an essential part of the heightened security effort is the Iraqi government's program aimed at national reconciliation.

Iraqi officials have made similar assertions in recent weeks. On Monday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed displeasure at a U.S.-Iraqi raid on Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, saying it employed excessive force -- including fire from U.S. aircraft -- that could doom reconciliation efforts.

Caldwell said the raid, conducted before dawn on Monday, was an "Iraqi-run operation" intended to apprehend a suspected death-squad leader. "I think everybody understands that the intent was to go in, apprehend the individual in question and come out," he said.

"Nobody intended to have to use force unless absolutely necessary. The Iraqi security forces . . . came under such intense, heavy fire from elements there that they had to use some air support in order to extract themselves safely," he said.

[On Thursday, a British parliamentary group said that Britain's troops in Iraq are overstretched, ill-equipped and underpaid, and that the strain of fighting two big wars at once threatens the forces' effectiveness, according to the Reuters news agency.

[In a strongly worded report, the cross-party Defense Committee accused the government of failing to act quickly enough to provide better armored vehicles and an adequate number of helicopters and said troops were being rotated into Iraq and Afghanistan without getting their normal rest. Reuters cited Defense Secretary Des Browne as responding that the military was "stretched, but not overstretched."]

On Wednesday, nine bodies were found in various districts of Baghdad, all victims of gunfire, Reuters reported, quoting police.

Assailants killed five people and wounded two in western Baghdad when they opened fire on a street vendor grilling fish, an Interior Ministry source said.

In western Iraq, a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying six crew members crashed Tuesday during "an area familiarization flight," the military said in a statement Wednesday. Four soldiers survived and were reported in stable condition. Two were reported missing.

The statement said the crash did not appear to be a result of enemy action.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company