2.3 million displaced in Iraq, groups say
Iraq's displaced population has grown to 2. 3 million people, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society said Monday on the heels of a warning by another...
Los Angeles Times
BAGHDAD — Iraq's displaced population has grown to 2.3 million people, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society said Monday on the heels of a warning by another humanitarian group that border tensions are exacerbating the plight of those who fled north to escape sectarian violence.
The Red Crescent report said another 67,000 families left their homes in September, continuing a pattern that has multiplied the number of displaced persons more than fivefold this year.
About two-thirds of the total are children under 12, the Red Crescent said.
In a related report, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said shelling of Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq along the Turkish and Iranian borders has driven refugees into nearby cities.
Their arrival is driving up rents, leading to evictions, the report said. The Swiss-based organization distributed the report Monday after giving a briefing on it in Switzerland last week.
About 1,000 families, mostly Christians and Sunni Muslims, fled the Iranian border as a result of bombardments that ended in October, said Dana Graber Ladek, the organization's Iraq displacement specialist. Up to half have returned, Graber Ladek said.
A smaller number have fled the Turkish border, but a threatened cross-border Turkish offensive against the Kurdish group known as the PKK could cause another 2,000 to 10,000 families to leave, the agency said.
Less than 1 percent of the displaced occupy tent camps, the agency said. About 58 percent are in rented housing, 18 percent with relatives and 24 percent in public housing, the agency reported.
However, the displaced cause a severe drain on public resources and face hardships such as unemployment, poor medical care and inadequate schooling. The Iraqi parliament voted this week to provide a monthly stipend equivalent to $120 to each displaced family.
Abdul-Samad Rahman, Iraq's minister of displacement and migration, disputed the Red Crescent figure which, he said, relied on food-basket registrations as an indicator of displacement. Not all families that change their food-basket addresses are displaced, he said.
However, the Red Crescent figure was in line with an estimate published last week by the IOM, which set the number at 2.25 million. An additional 2 million people are believed to have left the country.
Despite the continuing upward trend, the September numbers might mask the beginning of a reversal, migration monitors said. Displaced persons are added to the total only when identified but already might have been long displaced, Graber Ladek said.
Also, with the drop in violence attributed in part to a buildup of U.S. military forces, some families are returning home. The ministry reported Saturday that 3,000 families who had abandoned their homes in Baghdad because of violence had returned over the past three months.
Meanwhile, the capital endured more violence Monday. A city council member was gunned down, and the deputy prime minister reported the killing of one of his guards.
Hamad Abdul Latif, 63, the council member from the Karada district of central Baghdad, was slain by armed men who ambushed his car, police said.
The media office of Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zobai reported that the security guard was kidnapped Tuesday in the largely Shiite Bayaa neighborhood of southwest Baghdad and was found dead in Yarmouk hospital two days later. He had been tortured and shot 10 times, the statement said.
In eastern Baghdad, gunmen killed Afi Ali Sultan, a director general in the city government in the Ghadeer neighborhood, while a roadside bomb killed one person and injured four in the Baladiyat neighborhood, police in the Rusafa district said.
Two policemen were killed and seven injured when a roadside bomb struck a joint Iraqi police and army patrol in Zaafraniya neighborhood of southwest Baghdad.
The bodies of three unidentified men killed by gunfire were found in the capital Monday, police reported.
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