Toll in Iraq Bombings Is Raised to More Than 500
NY Times
August 22, 2007

One week after a series of truck bombs hit two poor villages near the Syrian border, the known casualty toll has soared to more than 500 dead and 1,500 wounded, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, making them by far the worst coordinated attacks since the American-led invasion.

Dr. Said Hakki, director of the society, said Tuesday that local Red Crescent workers registering families for aid after the explosions in Qahtaniya and Jazeera had compiled the new numbers, which dwarf the earlier estimates that at least 250 people were killed.

The toll, Dr. Hakki said, may yet rise further. Among the wounded, one in five suffered serious injuries, such as head, chest or stomach damage, and emergency workers continuing to drag bodies from site's dusty rubble.

Statistical certainty can be difficult to obtain after major bomb attacks. But the Red Crescent figures align with earlier estimates by hospital officials and track with the typical ratio of dead to wounded in Iraq's largest bomb attacks.

With these figures, the bombing would be the deadliest coordinated assault since the American-led invasion in 2003 by a factor of nearly three. In July, about 155 people died in a massive explosion in the northern town of Amerli; a similar number were killed in series of bombings and mortar attacks in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad last November, and about 152 died in Tal Afar last month from a double truck bombing.

In the area of last week's attack, the struggle to cope continued to ripple through the desert towns dominated by Yazidis, a clannish Kurdish-speaking sect whose faith combines Islamic teachings with other ancient religions. Many families of the wounded were so shaken by the attack that they insisted on taking their badly broken relatives back to their villages, where they felt they would be safer.

Dr. Kifah Kattu, director general of the hospital in Sinjar, a few miles north of where the explosions occurred, said that all 300 of the hospital's wounded patients from the blast had been taken away, returned to people's homes or to smaller clinics and aid tents by family homes.

"Doctors were astonished because their relatives insisted on taking them," he said.

He added that as simple villagers, "they thought that Sinjar was more dangerous."

Witnesses at the time said that wide swaths of the two villages had been completely leveled by the blasts. The high death toll was attributed in part to architecture: much of the area is dominated by mud and stone huts that simply collapsed.

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