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Baghdad Blast Eyewitness

IWPR reporter describes the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack in the capital.
By Duraed Salman

Wael Ahmed collapsed and hit his head on a pole when he discovered that some of his fellow soldiers in the Iraqi Army were killed in a spate of suicide attacks in the city.

“Six friends of mine have been martyred,” he said as he fell, overwhelmed with grief.

For more than a week, Iraq has been reeling from explosions caused by suicide bombers who have killed more than 100 people. The worst attack occurred on July 16 in Musayyib, just south of Baghdad, where a suicide bomber detonated himself under a fuel tanker, killing at least 71 people.

An IWPR reporter was on the scene of a deadly attack the previous day, when a suicide car bomber blew himself up near an Iraqi army base in the al-Sumer quarter, near the al-Shaab neighbourhood. At least nine people were killed and about 20 were wounded.

Many people had gathered in the area after the Friday noon prayers, as it is near the central market. The area is usually crowded because one of the nearby roads links Baghdad to the northern provinces and there are many vendors on the side of the streets selling fruit, cigarettes, gas and other items.

In the afternoon heat, Iraqis were going about their day when a loud boom shook the ground.

“Oh God!” shouted Isam Mohammed, whose car had been hit by a large piece of shrapnel as it was parked 150 metres away from the suicide bomber. “What about those people close to the explosion?”

In the chaos, Zahrah Siyab initially believed that her son, who had gone to fill up his car with gas, had been killed in the explosion. She was trying to get closer to the scene to find her son’s body, but later learned he was safe.

“Look at all the sorrow we have,” she said.

Iraqi security forces had blocked off streets surrounding the explosion and they fired their weapons into the air to force the crowd to disperse. Casualties were evacuated but some charred bodies remained.

The explosion also flung body parts to neighbouring areas. A cleaner found a burned foot on the roof of a building where he was working.

Some Iraqis at the scene directed their anger toward American forces, whom they blamed for the violence.

“You are the source of our troubles and misery,” shouted Mohammed Muter when American helicopters were seen flying overhead.

Others expressed their rage at the insurgents who have been killing scores of Iraqis.

“Why did that dog target the innocent?” asked Mazin Sleman.

Nahidah Ibrahim wept as she observed the scene, calling it a massacre of poor souls. “How many houses have collapsed on their owners because of this?” she asked.

Ali Abdul-Munim took a piece of shrapnel from the scene as evidence to give to future generations about Iraq’s bloody decade.

“I hope my sons and grandsons will not have to witness this kind of violence when they grow up,” he said.

Duraed Salman is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.

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