The Washington Post, under attack from those who charge that it has inflated the number of Iraqis killed in sectarian violence, responds today with a report that Iraq's leading Shiite party has ordered the Health Ministry to stop cataloging deaths that result from execution-style shootings -- the method of choice in Shiite-on-Sunni violence.
By ordering that execution-style shootings not be tabulated -- while continuing the counts of those who killed by bombings and gunfights with insurgents -- the Post says the Shiites who dominate Iraq's young government can obscure the fact that "execution-style killings of the kind frequently blamed on police or Shiite militias allied with the government appear to be killing more Iraqis than bombings of government and civilian targets by Sunni Arab insurgents." Shiite leaders deny the report.
What can't be denied is this: The violence in Iraq, from whatever source, is continuing in a way that would be numbing if it weren't so breathtaking. Fifty employees of a security firm -- a security firm! -- were taken hostage Wednesday by gunmen wearing uniforms of either Iraqi police or Interior Ministry commando units. A car bomb in Iraq killed nine and wounded six Thursday. Four other explosions were heard in the capital, but a dust storm kept officials from the details. An accountant was assassinated outside her home in Baghdad, possibly because she was known to work in the Green Zone.
The Associated Press says nearly 600 people have been killed since the bombing of the golden domed Shiite shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22. The Post has said that the number is more than 1,000. With the deaths Wednesday of a soldier in Tal Afar and two Marines in the Anbar province, the U.S. death toll in Iraq now stands at 2,305.