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BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi official says the government has a special plan to gather statistics about Bedouin and other nomadic tribes ahead of a census later this year, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI).

Mahdi al-Allaq, the chairman of the Central Bureau of Statistics, told RFI on May 12 that teams are currently fanning out across the country to
list areas where Bedouin traditionally roam in search of water and pastureland.

The teams will collect preliminary data before a separate census of the Bedouin population begins.

Al-Allaq cited seven provinces in western and northwestern Iraq as having the highest concentration of nomadic tribes. He said that counting Bedouin in the target provinces will begin two weeks before October's national census due to the logistical challenge the Bedouin pose for census takers.

Sociologist Fawziya al-Attiya told RFI that Iraq's Bedouin have been neglected for many years. She said modest attempts since the early 1980s to educate them have been constantly undermined by government instability.

Al-Attiya pointed out that simple living conditions and poverty make the Bedouin easy prey for terrorist infiltrators and other foreign fighters along Iraq's borders. She said this is spurring the government to develop a wide-ranging plan to improve Bedouin living conditions and provide basic services for them.

The Central Bureau of Statistics defines Bedouin as people with no permanent residence, usually living in tents, and constantly moving across the desert in search of water and places for their livestock to graze.

The last Iraqi census in 1997 estimated the number of Bedouins in Iraq at 100,000.
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