16,000 Iraq War prisoners still unaccounted for

Families fear that thousands are dead or being held in secret prisons

Published March 15, 2013 8:25PM (EDT)

Thousands of Iraqis have gone missing in the 10 years since the U.S. invaded the country, according to Agence France-Presse on Friday. "Some were hauled off as relatives watched, while others disappeared in unknown circumstances," the news agency reported.

An estimated 16,000 people are reportedly unaccounted for and being sought by relatives and friends. It's unclear whether Iraqi federal police or militants posing in police uniforms are responsible for many of the disappearings. Via AFP:

Kidnappings became increasingly common in the years of violence following the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, especially after militants bombed a Shiite shrine in Samarra in 2006, sparking a bloody sectarian conflict.

While the violence has been brought under a semblance of control, many Iraqis are still searching for family members who went missing, holding on to hope that they are alive.

There are 16,000 people still missing, according to Arkan Thamer Saleh, the head of the human rights ministry's humanitarian affairs department, which assists in searching for missing people.

The actual number may be higher as not all cases of missing persons are reported.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Iraq Iraq War Middle East Missing Persons Secret Prisons