Tal Afar attack casualty total rises to 152
With relief efforts under way, the Iraqi government has raised the death toll in last week’s Tal Afar truck bombing to 152, more than doubling initial reports of the attack that said 48 people died.
Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said the number nearly doubled from previous estimates after more bodies were pulled from the rubble.
The bombing also wounded nearly 350 other people in a poor Shiite district of the city, setting off reprisal attacks by Shiite police and militiamen that killed another 47 people in the days afterward, Iraqi officials said.
The massive truck bomb caused some Shiite policemen to be “motivated by emotions when they saw their parents and siblings get killed, but this is not acceptable,” Khalaf told The New York Times on Saturday.
According to Khalaf, at least 16 police and two civilians have been arrested in connection with the reprisal attacks.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi troops continued their efforts to aid victims of the bombings. The bomb destroyed nearly 100 houses and shops in the neighborhood, U.S. military officials said. Iraqi officials estimated that the bomb included some two tons of explosives. If the higher death toll is accurate, it would be the worst single attack since the war began.
Iraqi officials said the bomb was hidden in a truck purportedly delivering sugar.
U.S. military officials on Sunday said that several of the victims were medically evacuated to a combat support hospital on Forward Operating Base Marez East in Mosul.
“Our hearts sank when we saw the children,” Maj. Lillian Cardona, the nurse manager at the 28th Combat Support Hospital, was quoted as saying in a news release.
That release put the casualty figures at 83 dead and 191 wounded. The disparity in casualty counts is common in Iraq; Iraqi officials said the higher death toll reflected victims who died later of their wounds and victims whose families did not take them to official morgues, among other factors.
According to the U.S. military, medical teams were able to save 16 of the 17 victims brought to the hospital. At least six others were flown to a larger military hospital in Balad.
The fledgling Iraqi air force flew in relief supplies aboard a C-130, officials said, and U.S. civil affairs teams are working to funnel the aid to the areas most affected by the bombing.
President Bush had previously cited Tal Afar in speeches as an example of U.S. successes in Iraq. In the months since, some military officials have said the singling out of Tal Afar had made it even more of a target for insurgents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.