Unspeakable savagery on streets of Baghdad Back to Iraq:
Evidence of the daily carnage can be found in abundance at the city's
morgue. Lara Marlowe went there
The little bundle wrapped inside plastic sheeting is dwarfed
by the adult-sized plywood coffin. 2-1/2 year-old Fatima Ala'a's aunt
crumples to the ground outside the Baghdad city morgue when she
sees the viscous, grey-green blob teeming with maggots.
Another relative sprays insecticide on the corpse, to fight off the
onslaught of flies.
"They kidnapped her seven days ago," says Fatima's uncle, Walid
"A neighbour's family did it, the sons of Um Ashraf and Abu Ashraf.
They wanted money and we didn't have it. Someone else was demanding
money from them, so they turned on us. Another neighbour noticed a bad
smell in his house. That was how we found her, in the sewer.
"I recognised her hair barrettes and her black trousers with the
green polka-dots. Though she was very small, I think they raped her."
Fatima's father Ala'a Abed, a night watchman, stands to one side, as
if in a trance. The little girl was his eldest child. He has only an
infant son left. The Shia family from the district of Sayadieh did not
have enough money to take Fatima to their holy city of Najaf for
burial, so they buried her in Baghdad yesterday.
"We blame the Americans for not taking security seriously," her
Uncle Walid says.
A trip to the Baghdad city morgue and forensics institute makes
clear the depths to which human beings can sink, the unspeakable
savagery that reigns on the streets of the Iraqi capital.
As I talk with Fatima's family, a white jeep backs up to the door of
the autopsy room, its tailgate open. A man keens over the body of his
brother, shot dead hours earlier. "Oh Ahmad Mohamed," he wails. "Where
are the people who believe in the holy books, in the Koran and the
The morgue receives between 20 and 30 bodies each day, less than
during the peak killing season of July and August, but still three
times the number of daily fatalities prior to the US occupation.
"The Americans should issue a new law, that any murderer they catch
will be hanged," says Dr Sa'ad Kadim, a forensic pathologist.
"When Saddam Hussein fell, we were happy, but after the looting and
killing took hold, we lost heart."
Police brought 667 bodies to the morgue in the month of
September. Of those, 372 - including 50 women - died of gunshot wounds,
says Dr Qais Hassan, also a forensic pathologist and the director of
the morgue's statistics department.
The worst month this year was August, when 518 Baghdadis were shot
dead, compared to 10 fatalities from bullets in August 2002.
The statistics tell the story of Baghad's descent into cold-blooded
mayhem. In all of 2002, 174 people died of gunshot wounds in the
capital. This year, until the end of September, pathologists recorded
2,173 deaths by firearms in Baghdad alone, almost all of them since
The institute closed down for "10 days when the regime fell in
April, so dozens if not hundreds of deaths during that period were not
"It's a disaster," Dr Hassan says. "At the end of the war, the Iraqi
army left weapons all over the place. US forces could have collected
them, but they didn't do it. Security is getting a little better,
because there are more Iraqi police now."
Dr Hassan estimates that up to a quarter of fatal shootings are
caused by US troops.
"Twenty days ago, Iraqis were joy-shooting at a wedding party in
Baghdad and the Americans thought they were being attacked.
"They opened fire and killed a 21-year-old woman, the five-month-old
daughter she was holding in her arms and the woman's eight-year-old
"At the end of July, a family were driving past a power station
guarded by the Americans in the Suleikh district.
"Something exploded near a generator and the Americans fired at the
"They killed the father - I remember, his name was Adel - his
20-year-old son and daughters, aged 19 and 13."
Dr Hassan says it is easy to tell the difference between Iraqi and
"This morning, the police from Mahmoudiya station brought in this
man," he says, holding up the papers for 26-year-old Sa'ad Mohamed.
"I found American-type bullets in his body. They are long and narrow
and do far more damage to internal organs than Iraqi bullets. They make
big laceration wounds."
Sa'ad Mohamed had five bullets in his chest, head and arms. "I don't
know if he attacked the Americans," Dr Hassan says.
When asked by Western journalists, the Coalition Provisional
Authority and US military officials have repeatedly said they do not
know how many Iraqi civilians have fallen victim to the extreme
violence of post-war Baghdad. But every month, Dr Hassan says, US
representatives in the health ministry across the street ask their
Iraqi counterparts to request the statistics from him.
It is not clear whether the silence of the CPA regarding civilian
Iraqi deaths is due to a deliberate cover-up or merely the bureaucratic
failure to pass on information within the CPA.
In the small alley behind the forensic institute, outside the blue
metal doors leading to the autopsy and refrigeration rooms, the tragedy
The cheap coffins lined up on the ground are lent by mosques. Since
Muslims are buried in a shroud only, the coffins are recycled after
each trip to the cemetery.
A man removes a blood-soaked piece of cardboard from one coffin, a
blood-stained blanket from another, preparing them for the next
A middle-aged man stands calmly amid the moaning and wailing and
bustle of families crowding around the clerk's window to pay the 10,000
Iraqi dinars (about E4.30) fee for a death certificate.
"I am waiting for my daughter's body," he whispers. "She was
standing by the gate to our house and someone shot her."
Water used to mop the floors inside the morgue floods into the
alley, which reeks of the sour, butcher shop smell of death.
Policemen carry in a man's body, covered by a blanket. Two bloodied
feet, bound at the ankles, protrude from under the rough fabric.
"We found him in the street in Baghdad Jediedeh at 7 am," Lt Arkan
Khalil says. "The thieves cut his legs, but he died of strangulation.
We think they stole his car. We found no identity papers. It's a
miserable situation. These things never used to happen."
"When the victim has no papers, we write 'unknown' in the records,"
Dr Kadim says.
"It happens with three or four out of every 20 victims. Families
come here looking for missing people. We keep them in the refrigerator
for one month, and then Muslim charities or the municipality bury
A Toyota police pick-up with a double cabin backs into the courtyard
with two partially covered bodies in the back. They are car thieves,
shot by the man they tried to rob.
"Most of the deaths are related to car theft," Dr Kadim continues.
The owner of a new Opel car handed over his keys to thieves in Haifa
Street and ran.
When the thieves realised that he had used an electronic zapper to
block the door locks, they pursued him and shot him; the Opel owner's
body too found its way to the city morgue yesterday morning.
Revenge is another frequent motive. "It's from the previous time,"
Dr Kadim explains.
"A lot of those killed are former Ba'ath party members, intelligence
and security officials. We know because their relatives tell us."
Musa Ahmad has come to collect the body of his cousin Haidar Sabah
"The neighbours saw him dying in the street and went and told his
mother. He was shot four times in the legs and lower abdomen. He was
his widowed mother's only son, and we had to stop her from throwing
herself in the river. The two of them lived alone together."
Mr Sabah sold electrical supplies in the Shorja market. "He was a
scrappy guy, always getting in fights," Mr Musa said. "I think it was
revenge. But only God knows."
Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack
Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been
added to Nexis:
There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting
duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for
general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use
increase from 2 to 3 now.