Gone, Period

Disappeared without a trace: more than 10,000 Iraqis
By Shashank Bengali
McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq – When her heart is heaviest, Sahira Kereem tries to think of the little things her husband did that annoyed her. She remembers times when she suggested they visit her parents, and he just rolled his eyes.

The mental trick rarely brings her comfort. The fact remains that Riyadh Juma Saleh, her husband of nearly 15 years, went missing one day nearly three years ago and Kareem has no idea what became of him.

Over the past four years, as sectarian kidnappings and killings have gripped Iraq and U.S. forces have arrested untold numbers in an effort to pacify the country, tens of thousands of Iraqis have vanished, often in circumstances as baffling as that of Kereem’s husband, a Shiite Muslim father of three.

There’s no accurate count of the missing since the war began. Iraqi human rights groups put the figure at 15,000 or more, while government officials say 40 to 60 people disappeared each day throughout the country for much of last year, a rate equal to at least 14,600 in one year.

What happened to them is a frustrating mystery that compounds Iraq’s overwhelming sense of chaos and anarchy. Are they dead? Were they kidnapped or killed in some mass bombing? Is the Iraqi government or some militia group holding them? Were they taken prisoner by the United States, which is holding 19,000 Iraqis at its two main detention centers, at Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca?

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