BAGHDAD, 27 April 2011 (IRIN) - The government has set up a committee to trace thousands of Iraqis missing since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, says an official.
"Our definition of missing people are those who disappeared in military operations, terrorist attacks or those who are reported kidnapped but have not appeared yet," Maj. Farouk Al-Araji, office manager of the Chief Commander of Iraq's Military Command, told a news conference in Baghdad on 25 April.
"The families have to submit the documents that prove the incident [that led to their disappearance] is registered in the police records, a picture of the missing [person] and phone number to the offices of security forces in all provinces starting from May 2," Al-Araji added.
The families will have 15 days to submit all the required documents, he added.
The government committee includes representatives from the ministries of defence, interior, national security, health, justice and human rights, in addition to intelligence services and anti-terrorism forces.
According to the human rights ministry, 14,025 people have been registered missing since 2003 and only seven have been found yet in morgues. Kamil Arkan, the ministry's representative on the committee, said the number is believed to be higher because many cases went unreported.
Following the 2003 invasion, Iraq suffered years of bloody violence that started with militant attacks against Iraqi and US-led forces, government employees and people working with western companies and organizations.
The violence reached its climax after the February 2006 bombing of a Shia shrine by Sunni extremists, which locked the country in tit-for-tat sectarian killings between the two main Muslim sects.
The security situation started improving in 2008 as Iraqi security forces backed by US forces launched a nationwide crackdown against Sunni and Shia militants alike.
After that, relatives started placing pictures of the missing in daily newspapers and television programmes in an effort to locate them.