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In Iraq, death tolls often in dispute

Disparities between official and eyewitness tallies lead some Iraqis to charge the government with downplaying attacks.

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Throngs of Iraqis were busily shopping for the weekend when a truck bomb and barrage of rockets ripped apart the market in central Karrada.

Iraqiya television and most Western media outlets reported that 25 were killed and 100 wounded in the July 26 attack, of which virtually no images were shown.

But less than a week later, the names of 92 dead and 127 wounded were posted on a list taped to a shuttered storefront. It was compiled by municipal and civil defense crews that led the rescue efforts.

The disparity in official numbers and the ones posted in the market, and apparent differences between government figures and eyewitness accounts after other recent bombings, leaves many Iraqis feeling that the government is intentionally downplaying or trying to cover up the numbers of dead.

"They want to cover up their incompetence," says Fawaz Hassan of the government. "I plead with you … please deliver the truth to the world. We do not want any compensation. We just want the world to know what happened here."

Mr. Hassan and his brother, Haidar, watched on Wednesday as a municipal tractor removed rubble from the scene. Dozens of black funeral banners displaying the names of entire families hung as a kind of testimony to the level of devastation. Four homes were reduced to rubble and a three-story building, which wrapped around an entire block, was gutted.
The Hassan brothers lost a nephew, and their brother and sister were badly wounded. Their homes and businesses, on the same street, were destroyed.

Another resident, Maher Hafidh, who helped remove the dead, says that his cousin and a neighbor were among the people that are still missing and have yet to be included on the list of dead.


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