Baghdad street sweepers clear bodies after bombings

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 10, 2008 

WORLD NEWS USIRAQ 2 MCT

Restaurant employees clean out Abu Wael's restaurant in Baghdad at least three bombs ripped through the street.

HUSSEIN KADHIM — Hussein Kadhim / MCT

BAGHDAD — Three or more explosions Monday ripped through a busy shopping district in northern Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood, at killing at least 28 people and wounding at least 68.

North of Baghdad in Baqouba, a 13-year-old girl walked to a checkpoint of Sunni Muslim paramilitary members and detonated explosives. She killed herself and at least five others, including a leading member of the U.S.-backed paramilitary. At least 15 people were wounded.

The bombings indicated an increasing trend of violence across the country.

The U.S. military put the death toll for the Baghdad bombings at four, but witnesses said they saw dozens of dead bodies and a bus full of people on fire.

It was unclear whether three or four explosions ripped through the Adhamiyah shopping district, where professionals, laborers and students were eating breakfast before heading to work. Witnesses said they saw two car bombs followed by two roadside bombs, while police blamed a suicide bomber and two roadside bombs for the fatalities.

The blasts, which lasted 15 minutes, were timed to coincide with the breakfast rush at Abu Wael's restaurant. Policemen, laborers, merchants and students were eating eggs, meat and potato patties and drinking tea to start their day. Many didn't make it out of the restaurant.

A bus and its passengers burned in the street, which filled with flames and smoke. Witnesses said that only two passengers survived.

The Egyptian cook at Abu Wael's, Shaaban, who was only one name, immigrated to Iraq more than 20 years ago and had worked at the restaurant for years. "What was he guilty of to deserve being killed?" asked Imad Kareem, a co-owner of the family-run restaurant. "He just worked to feed his family."

When the bombs detonated, Kareem felt the floor shake under his feet, and the ceiling collapsed on him. He survived without a scratch.

The charred remnants of a car that witnesses say exploded sat next to the shell of the restaurant.

Qusay Sabbah heard the first two blasts ring out, and the windows of his home shattered and crashed to the floor. He started to dress and get help when two more blasts ripped through the main street. Outside was a street of corpses. The wounded pleaded for help. He picked up two young girls and took them to his home to await an ambulance.

"I don't know why they kill the innocent," he said.

As street cleaners swept away the rubble, restaurant owners cleaned up their damaged buildings and street sweepers swept away the blood. "I am sorry for Iraq and Iraqis," said a passer-by, who wouldn't give his name. "The street sweepers sweep away Iraqi bodies now instead of rubbish."

As Iraqis picked up the bodies from the street, the Iraqi government doled out cash to Sunni militiamen who'd been transferred to their authority last month from the U.S. military in Baghdad province.

Monday marked the first day that the Iraqi government paid the $300 monthly wage to the militiamen, formed with the help and funding of the U.S. military.

(Kadhim is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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