Emergency Response: Baghdad's 9-1-1 Call Center

ByABC News
September 13, 2006, 4:46 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 13, 2006 — -- In Iraq's capital, nearly every shooting and explosion is reported to the city's 24-hour emergency police call center.

ABC News was allowed to tour the Baghdad facility and found the atmosphere calm and high-tech while the 4,000 daily calls reported chaos outside in the streets.

The worst calls go to Police Chief Ali al-Yaseri. When ABC News was visiting, he responded to a shootout between rival Sunni and Shiite gangs.

"They hate each other," al-Yaseri said. "And they're taking revenge, which is causing all these causalities."

The emergency police mainly see revenge attacks now, even more so than car bombs. More than 30 people were killed on the day of our recent visit, and most of those bodies would end up in the river.

Each morning Baghdad's river police head out on the Tigris on the grim mission of searching for the dead. The river is a favorite place to dump bodies, as it quickly carries them downstream, away from where the killings occurred. The corpses are often recovered long after they can be identified.

Authorities have a training exercise to prepare for the task of retrieving bodies, and every day they do it for real at least a dozen times.

"We're helping people the best way we can so they can find and bury their loved ones," said one diver.

Back at the emergency response center, the calls keep coming, with word of another dumped body or shooting. Al-Yaseri said the police are doing their best to prevent the violence, but unless Iraq finds a political solution, the phones will keep ringing.