After Months of Relative Calm, 2 Deadly Blasts Rock Baghdad
Saturday, February 2, 2008
BAGHDAD, Feb. 1 -- Amid so much that cannot be trusted, so much that is dangerous to do, Hassan Jarbou had begun to find some solace every Friday in the act of buying birds.
More confident in the safety of his Baghdad neighborhood in recent months, Jarbou had returned to this small pleasure: a brisk morning walk from his house to Dove Market in eastern Baghdad, a cup of tea with his friends, then shopping amid the singing of nightingales and turtledoves.
On Friday morning, as the woman wearing the black cloak over an explosive vest stalked into the market, he had already chosen a new pair of lovebirds to add to his collection at home.
At 10:50 a.m., the bombing blasted away the morning calm, killing and wounding dozens of people. About 10 minutes earlier, less than five miles away, the same grim scene had just occurred: a female bomber, a pet market, and an explosion that marred the sense of cautious hope that has returned to much of Baghdad. The two bombings killed 58 people, according to Iraqi police, and wounded more than 170 others. The attacks amounted to the deadliest day in Baghdad in more than six months.
"This was a terrible thing to see," Jarbou said. "I will never forget it."
In recent months, there have been at least six female suicide bombers in different parts of Iraq, particularly in Diyala province, north of the capital. But Iraqi officials said they were unaware of any previous instance in which two female bombers had struck in Baghdad at the same time.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said he believed the bombings were a coordinated effort by the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. Khalaf said witnesses and police reported that the two women were mentally disabled, but U.S. military officials said they knew of no evidence to support such a claim.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the bombings in a statement.
"The ugliness of this crime will not weaken the resolve of our armed forces and it will raise up our determination to deliver security," Maliki said.
The first bombing hit the Ghazil market in central Baghdad, the largest and most famous animal market in the city, which has been attacked at least four times in the past two years. The entrance to the market is blocked by high concrete barriers to prevent vehicles from entering and is manned by security guards. But several vendors said the guards had become lax about searching shoppers as they entered and had been allowing motorcycles to drive in. The market sells a wide variety of animals -- tropical fish, pigeons, goats and puppies -- and it is at its most crowded on Friday mornings.
The blast scattered corpses and body parts on the pavement, shattered windows and market stalls, and sparked a panicked stampede from the scene of the attack.
"There were pieces of people everywhere. One was without a head, others were without arms. Some were dead and not moving, some were crawling," said Jawad Kadim, 21, who sells birds in the market. "I closed my shop and I ran away. It's getting worse and worse here."