In Iraqi Hamlet, 'A Funeral Service In Every House'
Monday, July 9, 2007
BAGHDAD, July 8 -- Khider Walli Ahmad has nobody left. Not his wife or his 4-year-old son, not his father or mother or sister. They were killed Saturday when a suicide bomber detonated a truck packed with explosives in a crowded market.
In the rubble of their mud-brick house and small shop, Ahmad found fragments of their bodies. His 69-year-old father, who sold cigarettes and dairy products, was closest to the blast.
"What was left of my father were bits and pieces, which I and some of the neighbors collected into a bag while we wept," Ahmad, 39, said Sunday, the trauma plastered across his face. Last year, he said, Sunni militants killed his brother Ali and his nephew during a pilgrimage to the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
"And today I lost all my family," he said.
In the Shiite Turkmen hamlet of Amerli, 50 miles south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, grief and anger mixed with bewilderment in the aftermath of one of the single deadliest attacks on Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Almost everyone seemed to have lost relatives or friends, if not entire families.
The death toll rose to more than 140, but 20 people remain missing, police officials said Sunday. More than 270 people were injured, they added. In the previous deadliest attack, a truck bomb in March killed 152 people in the northern town of Tall Afar.
In Amerli, many residents struggled to understand why their remote, peaceful outpost was targeted. And instinctively, they blamed Sunnis linked to the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq for the carnage.
"Why can't the army and police protect us against those thugs?" demanded Ahmad, tall, thin and disheveled. He wore a traditional white robe, speckled with dried blood. In a hoarse voice, he said he was awake throughout the night, shouting and crying for his family.
"I am going to leave because I have come to hate Iraq and the religion that allows such killings," he said. "May God damn them all."
A Washington Post special correspondent on Sunday visited Amerli, nestled in a barren, desolate patch between the town of Tuz Khormato and volatile Diyala province, where U.S. forces are mounting an intense campaign to weed out al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Arab extremists. On Sunday, scores of black banners mourning the dead hung on walls and houses. At security checkpoints, policemen wore black bands on their left arms and grief on their faces.
"I came in to work on my own today although I was off duty," said Emad Abdul Hussein, a policeman, as he manned a checkpoint at the entrance to the market. "But I felt it is my duty to help in securing this devastated area."
"I lost an uncle and his son, but we are not going to give up," he added.