Saddam's regime may have killed 61,000 - survey

 

 Saddam Hussein's government may have executed 61,000 Baghdad residents, a number significantly higher than previously believed, according to a survey today.

 The bloodiest massacres of Saddam's 23-year presidency occurred in Iraq's Kurdish north and Shiite Muslim south, but the Gallup Baghdad Survey data indicates the brutality extended strongly into the capital as well.

 The survey, obtained by The Associated Press and which the polling firm planned to release tomorrow, asked 1,178 Baghdad residents in August and September whether a member of their household had been executed by Saddam's regime.   According to Gallup, 6.6 per cent said yes.  The polling firm took metropolitan Baghdad's population of 6.39 million and average household size - 6.9 people - to calculate that 61,000 people were executed during Saddam's rule.

 Most are believed to have been buried in mass graves.

 The United States-led occupation authority in Iraq has said that at least 300,000 people are buried in mass graves in Iraq.

 Human rights officials put the number closer to 500,000 and some Iraqi political parties estimate more than one million were executed.

 Without exhumations of those graves, it is impossible to confirm a figure.

 Scientists told The Associated Press during a recent investigation that they have confirmed 41 mass graves on a list of suspected sites that currently includes 270 locations.

 Forensic teams will begin to exhume four of those graves next month in search of evidence for a new tribunal, expected to be established this week, that will try members of the former regime for crimes against humanity and genocide. More graves will later be added to the list.