In and Around Iraq, Gloom Takes a Holiday
Friday, November 4, 2005
BAGHDAD, Nov. 3 -- Residents of the Iraqi capital celebrated the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Thursday by doing something noticeably unusual: They hung out on sidewalks, eating ice cream and lifting their faces to the cool fall breeze.
After 2 1/2 years of war, suicide bombs, power shortages and barricades, Saad Salman took his five children out for a sugar rush. The family sat on benches outside an ice cream shop in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood -- a normal scene in any other part of the Muslim world during the festival of Eid al-Fitr but not in Iraq, where the threat of violence often keeps residents tucked inside their homes unless they absolutely must go out.
The capital felt downright giddy for a change.
Salman, a 42-year-old merchant, said his children begged him to leave the house in the New Baghdad district. "I want them to feel happy," Salman said. "We think the future will be brighter. These are the first steps of stability. We should live normally despite all the difficulties."
The U.S. military announced Thursday that a soldier was killed during combat operations in the western city of Ramadi when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb. Two American soldiers were killed in Ramadi on Wednesday when their helicopter was shot down over the city, and U.S. warplanes struck back later that day, dropping two bombs near the site of the helicopter crash, killing 20 people, witnesses said. The military confirmed the strikes on Thursday.
In an Internet posting, al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the helicopter attack. The insurgent group also said it had tried two Moroccan Embassy employees captured last month and sentenced the men to death, according to the Reuters news agency.
"The legislative authority of al Qaeda organization in Iraq has decided to carry out God's law against the infidels and has ruled to kill them," the group said in a statement. No further information was available.
In a news briefing Thursday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch provided new statistics about insurgent attacks against U.S. forces.
In October, 466 Americans were killed or wounded by roadside bombs and land mines; in January, the deadliest month of the war for U.S. troops, such weapons killed and wounded 261. Car bombs wounded or killed 55 last month, compared with 123 in April, the peak so far this year.
Many Iraqis in the capital expressed a quiet resolve, a deep faith in God that peace would come at the start of Eid, the feast marking the end of Ramadan. Sunni Muslims began the multi-day celebration on Thursday; Shiites generally will begin the feast on Friday.
"We depended on God and went out without fear," said Salma Ahmed, 38. She and her husband, Aqeel Hadi, 40, brought their three children to Karrada to enjoy the holiday. "We expect an explosion every moment, but we decided to go out instead of imprisoning ourselves at home," said Hadi, a taxi driver.
"Iraqis are known for defying danger," Ahmed added as her children, ages 18, 14 and 10, gathered around her like ducklings.