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Sources differ on death toll from sectarian violence

WASHINGTON—The Iraqi government has said that 379 Iraqis were killed and 458 were wounded in the violence that followed the bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in the city of Samarra.

Sunni officials, who in the past have been aggressive about reporting Sunni deaths, haven't offered very different numbers. Officials at the Baghdad morgue said they'd received about 250 bodies, a figure supported by the morgue logbook.

The Washington Post reported a death toll of 1,300 based on information from officials at the main Baghdad morgue. The Post later quoted an Iraqi interior ministry official, Gen. Ali Shamarri of the statistics department, who said the toll was 1,077.

In two days of reporting, Knight Ridder reporters have been unable to locate anyone in the interior ministry with Shamarri's name. Shamarri is a tribal name, though, and it's possible that the official in question could use another name, or that the ministry is pressuring him not to come forward. But no one from the Shamarri tribe with that rank and first name could be located in the statistics department or in other parts of the ministry's main offices.

David Hoffman, the Post's assistant managing editor for foreign news, said that while he wouldn't talk about his paper's sources, he was "very confident in the validity of the story, and in the soundness of the sources—and I know who they are."

Hoffman also said that while some could differ about the precise death toll, he was confident that the general thrust of the Post's report—that more than 1,000 Iraqis died during that critical time—was accurate.


(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.