More Than 300,000 Iraqis Have Fled
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ More than 300,000 Iraqis have fled their homes to other parts of the country to escape violence since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, with the rate swelling in the past six months of Shiite-Sunni killings, the immigration minister said Tuesday.
In addition, some 890,000 Iraqis have moved to Jordan, Iran and Syria since Saddam’s fall, Immigration Minister Abdul-Samad Sultan told reporters.
The flight is solidifying the sectarian divide in this country of around 30 million people. He said those who moved within Iraq went to areas where their own community dominates _ Shiites leaving Sunni-majority or mixed areas for Shiite ones and vice versa.
``We had hoped that the situation would help us after Saddam’s fall. But unfortunately, the plans of the Saddamists and the terrorists have shaken the new Iraq,″ Sultan said. ``This is the goal of the terrorists, to create (separate) Shiite and Sunni pockets and change the demographics of Iraq.″
Ministry statistics show that 51,000 families have fled their homes to move to another part of Iraq. Sultan said the ministry assumes an average of six people per family, putting the number at 306,000 people.
Sultan said at least half of them fled their homes after the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra that sparked a wave of Shiite retaliations against Sunnis, then a mounting spiral of killings between both sides that has left thousands dead.
The ministry tries to set up refugees in areas close to their home regions so as not to encourage the sectarian segregation of the country. The ministry provides tents and food supplies.