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Accounting For The Dead

Quantifying the death toll among Iraqis has become an increasingly difficult process and an article in today's Washington Post reveals as much. The Post's count of Iraqi deaths following the most recent spate of violence in Iraq is far higher than that reported by the U.S. military and other media outlets, which has caused some controversy. The Post reported today that the violence following last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine has killed "more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives…" Editor & Publisher offers a good background on the issue:
Iraq Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari called such high death totals "inaccurate and exaggerated," without mentioning the Post.

In comparison, The New York Times reported Monday that the recent violence "brought the country to the brink of civil war and left at least 200 dead." Others had produced similar figures.

On Tuesday, the Times increased that number to "379 dead and 458 wounded, the nation's Council of Ministers said today. At least 246 people in Baghdad alone were killed, the top two city morgue officials said."

It's unclear why these numbers remain so much below those cited by The Washington Post. Iraqi officials on Tuesday challenged the Post's figures.

Amid such confusion, what number is CBS reporting? I spoke to Charlie Kaye, executive producer for CBS News Radio, who said that CBS Radio is currently not reporting any "hard numbers" with their stories related to Iraq, but they did include the Post's 1,300 number in an earlier report, and attributed it to the Post. They reported the number "based on guidance from the [CBS] bureau in Baghdad" and based on the fact that the Post reporter obtained the information after visiting the morgue in person.'s current story on Iraq violence cites various outlets' counts, including the Washington Post's and the number cited by the Iraqi Cabinet (379 killed.)

Kaye said he expects some "further clarification" from CBS' Baghdad bureau, which is currently looking into the number. Kaye emphasized that obtaining such information is particularly difficult, adding that Associated Press reporters attempted to gain access to the morgue today, but were denied.