RUSSELL GOLDMAN and LUIS MARTINEZ
Friday, October 22, 2010
In what is being described as the largest release of secret U.S. military documents ever, whistle-blowing web site WikiLeaks has released a trove of classified reports about the war in Iraq, including a secret U.S. government tally that put the Iraqi death toll at 285,000, according to news sources that received advanced copies of the documents.
The documents include evidence of state sanctioned torture by the Iraqi government, new evidence of Iraqi government death squads, and Iran’s involvement in funneling arms to Shiite militias, according to Arab news channel Al Jazeera, which has been able to review the documents before their release.
Al Jazeera has reviewed the 400,000 documents that are being released. WikiLeaks says it will hold a press conference Saturday morning in Europe. WikiLeaks‘ Web site is currently down, for what it calls “scheduled maintenance,” and ABC News has not viewed the documents firsthand.
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Among the highlights initially released by al Jazeera are claims that the death toll reached 185,000, and that 63 percent of them were civilians. The U.S. military has long maintained that it does not keep an official death toll.
The Arabic news outlet also claims the documents state that 681 Iraqi civilians were killed at U.S. checkpoints, 180,000 Iraqis were arrested during the war, and that 15,000 Iraqis were buried without being identified.