A Bloody Sunday in Baghdad, In Spite of The Surge

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McClatchy Newspapers

A Bloody Sunday in Baghdad, In Spite of The Surge

by
Mohammed al Dulaimy and Leila Fadel

A grandmother of 19-year-old Mohammed Esam cries over his body at a morgue in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 29, 2008. Mohammed was one of 22 victims in Sunday's car bombing central Baghdad. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

BAGHDAD - Five explosions ripped through central and southwestern Baghdad Sunday evening as families shopped for an upcoming holiday, killing at least 33 and injuring at least 111.

The bombings were a bloody reminder that despite the drop in violence in Iraq over the past year the bloodshed is not gone.

In southwest Baghdad, a minivan detonated in a side street of a market where vendors were selling fruits, vegetables and second hand goods. The bombing ripped through the packed street of shoppers just before the evening meal when Muslims sit down to break their daylong fast during this month of Ramadan.

About an hour and a half later, a second parked car bomb ripped through another market place. The market was packed with people who'd fasted from dawn to dusk and following their evening meal ventured out to shop for the upcoming holiday Eid al Fitr, the holiday of feasting, that follows the month of fasting in Islam. As families fled, a second bomb hidden under a vendor's stall detonated. At least 19 people were killed and some 72 people were injured, police said.

Police later found a third vest they believed was intended for use at the same time.

Fadel Naama was inside "The Dragon" gym coaching patrons as they worked out in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada when the two explosions turned the evening into a night of bloodshed. Shortly before the explosions, a teenage boy came to him apologizing that he couldn't train on Sunday because of a pulled muscle. Naama, who owns the gym, told him to go home and rest.

Just after the boy left with his friend, Naama heard the boom and felt the pressure of an explosion. The boy's friend ran up the stairs in shock, his white T-shirt stained red.

"Where is your friend?" Fadel recalled asking. "He's been torn to pieces, the police took him," he said. He'd come up to wash the blood from his hands and legs.

Naama went outside and was stopped by police from approaching the site of the explosion, worried that another would soon go off. Then he saw a flash of light as a second explosion killed more people. He dropped to the ground to avoid shrapnel and heard metal pieces lodge into the walls around him.

Outside he saw a young girl sobbing and clinging to her father's leg as he urged her and the rest of his family to cross the street away from the explosion, he said. Next to Naama's leg was a pile of human flesh and in front of him a burning motorcycle lit up the market.

As Naama walked through the market trying to get to his car he passed bodies covered in white sheets and policemen loading up the wounded in the back of their cars.

The Iraqi Army pointed their weapons at him and searched him for explosives.

"I was angry. Only after the bombing did they become men," he said. "Only after this bombing did they start to search for bombs."

For the families of the dead, the upcoming holiday, which will begin sometime between Tuesday and Thursday, will be filled with funerals.

"The man who planted this must not be counted as a human. What kind of a heart does he have?" Naama said as he recalled the blast. "Didn't he think about the type of people he killed today? They were people shopping for Eid to celebrate. They were shopping for their families."

On Sunday night Hussein Yousef, 39, waited in Yarmouk hospital in west Baghdad. He didn't know if his cousin, wounded in the bombing in southwestern Baghdad, would make it through the night.

Yousef remembered the minivan that exploded. It was the same van that shopkeepers and vendors had seen the day before, he said. When the man tried to park they'd shooed him away. But as Yousef sold light bulbs and batteries from an outdoor stall he and the others didn't notice when the same van slipped into a side street, was parked and later detonated.

Also Sunday in Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi soldier and injured three others including a civilian and an adhesive bomb attached to a vehicle killed one person and injured another.

In the northern province of Diyala the mayor of the town of al Saidiyah was injured along with three of his bodyguards and two civilians on Sunday in a roadside bomb. The town is about 50 miles east of Baqouba.

 

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