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Bombings Underscore U.N. Report on Iraqi Deaths

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Bombings Underscore U.N. Report on Iraqi Deaths

Iraq

Bombings Underscore U.N. Report on Iraqi Deaths

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Today a United Nations report put the number of deaths in Iraq at more than 34,000 for 2006, and that news was punctuated by the day's violence in Baghdad. More than 100 people were killed in attacks at a university, a marketplace and a Sunni shrine.

BLOCK: On Capitol Hill, active-duty service members made a call for lawmakers to help end the war. We'll hear about that in a bit. We'll also hear from an Army captain about the rampant corruption in Iraq.

First, NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports from Baghdad.

JAMIE TARABAY: Al-Mustansiriya University is a frequent target for insurgents, but today's was the deadliest attack yet. More than 170 people were wounded by the blast. Iraqi television showed images of emergency services battling to put out burning cars.

Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)

TARABAY: An eyewitness said an initial explosion from a car bomb threw people back, and a second blast from a suicide bomber soon followed. Blasts rattled other parts of the capital. One struck Iraqi-Sunni's holiest shrine in Baghdad, wrecking its white marble exterior and shattering stained-glass windows. At least 15 people were killed in that explosion and 70 others wounded, and there were more blasts on one of the deadliest days in Baghdad in recent weeks.

It prompted a statement from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who said the people responsible were desperate terrorists. He assured Iraqis the crimes would not go unpunished. He also called on teachers and professors to return to universities. Highlighting the seriousness of Iraq security crisis, the United Nations released its bi-monthly report today estimating that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died violent deaths last year.

The U.N. warned that unless rule of law was instituted and enforced, the situation would only continue to deteriorate. The U.N. collected its numbers from Iraq's Health Ministry, hospitals throughout the country and other government agencies. There has to be accountability, the UN says. Police officers need to be retrained. The government should fix the justice system, and the cycle of violence and counter-violence needs to stop.

The U.N. also said that since an attack on the Shiite shrine last February, nearly half a million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and move elsewhere in the country. Human Rights Watch estimates there are up to two million refugees outside of Iraq. The agency also reports the U.S. government fell short of its pledge to resettle 500 Iraqi refugees within the 2006 fiscal year. It only resettled 202.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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