Violence in Iraq Kills 60 As Market, Recruits Hit
Thursday, August 31, 2006
BAGHDAD, Aug. 31 -- The Yogurt Father hawks his gloopy snack every day in the city's biggest market. No exceptions.
So when an enormous bomb exploded Wednesday 20 yards away from him at Shorja market, the largest and oldest bazaar in Baghdad, and killed 27 people, including several of his friends, he spent only a half-hour tending to the wounded and clearing debris. Then he washed the blood off his hands and resumed selling yogurt.
"We are used to seeing blood and death. It's routine now," said the 50-year-old Iraqi, who is known to customers as Abu Leben -- Yogurt Father -- and to friends and family as Abu Ali -- Father of Ali, his eldest son. He stirred a big vat of curdled milk as people nearby frantically sifted through blood-soaked rubble mixed with bits of human tissue. "I helped move some bodies," he explained, "but the only thing that I care about is how to get money for my family."
He scooped out a glass of yogurt for a customer. "If I don't die today, I might die tomorrow," he said.
The bloodshed in Iraq has become so common that it barely registers for some, even on a day like Wednesday, when violence across the country killed at least 60 people despite heightened efforts by the U.S. military to clamp down on sectarian strife.
The day's first major attack occurred in the southern city of Hilla, where a bicycle rigged with explosives detonated at 8 a.m. across the street from an Iraqi army recruiting center, killing 17 recruits and wounding 39, said police Capt. Muthanna Ahmed. The bicycle exploded next to a shack that sells biscuits and soda, a hangout where dozens of recruits gather every day before they are allowed to enter the army facility.
Bloody sandals and shoes and bits of fabric littered the road. An old woman searching for her child stopped in her tracks when she apparently recognized a piece of his pajamas.
"Oh, my son, my son!" the woman wailed as she pounded her face.
The explosion sparked chaos as looters, including a number of Iraqi army recruits, ransacked cars after drivers fled in fear of further attacks, said Basim Zien of the Hilla traffic police. The police eventually shot at the looters to stop the pillaging, he said.
Police and several recruits blamed the Iraqi army for making the recruits wait outside the base to register instead of allowing them in. Hassanien Jasim, a 24-year-old recruit, said no one enlisting for the army during the rule of Saddam Hussein had to wait in the street the way recruits do now. He said he held apathetic politicians responsible for Wednesday's violence.
"Is it too much for them to take us inside so they can protect us, when though they know that the Iraqi army is targeted?" Jasim said as he lay on a stretcher in the main hospital in Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, while doctors removed ball bearings from his chest. "They don't care about the people."
In Baghdad, the bomb in Shorja market detonated at about 9:45 a.m. in front of a kebab restaurant, killing 27 people and wounding 35, said Brig. Gen. Abdul Wahid Saleh of the Interior Ministry.