'Iraq did not know terrorism before US occupation'

"What we experience every day is 100 times worse than September 11," said the father of eight. "Each day hundreds of Iraqis were killed."

'Iraq did not know terrorism before US occupation'
When the dust of a devastating blast that rocked an inner Baghdad suburb six weeks ago had settled, Um Wafa'a was a widow.

Her husband was one of dozens of people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time — in Karrada neighbourhood on a Thursday afternoon in late July when it was crowded with shoppers ahead of the Muslim day of rest.

Um Wafa'a says while the world will next week mourn the loss of those killed in the September 11 attacks in the United States six years ago, they will hardly shed a tear for the car bomb dead of Baghdad.

In her eyes at least, the attack on the World Trade Centre and the bomb that killed her husband on July 26 are directly linked.

"I believe our suffering began on September 11," 44-year-old Um Wafa'a told AFP. "Now we are daily paying the price of the actions of the terrorists."

The official toll of the Karrada bombing was 25, but in the days that followed the names of 92 victims were listed on posters hastily stuck up on walls of the suburb.

The attack was just another in the litany of violence that has rocked Iraq since the United States' occupation.

Occupation, car bombs, suicide bombers, militia, death squads and snipers have killed tens of thousands of people across Iraq, but no one is keeping an accurate count of those killed.

The independent Internet site Iraq Body Count has come up with a figure of almost 80,000 dead, but says this is only an approximation based on media reports.

A statistical study by US researchers published in October last year sparked controversy when it estimated that some 655,000 Iraqi civilians had died from war-related causes since the start of the occupation.

Whatever the true total, the figure continues to rise rapidly.

In one particularly deadly attack in northern Iraq in July, some 400 people died. The twin bombings against two religious minority villages were the dealiest in the world since September 11.

If Iraqis have no clear idea of their losses since the 2003 invasion, they are equally uncertain of the reasons for their suffering.

"We can only think it was because of the lack of security that has been created by the US invasion," said Nidal Hussein, a mother of six. "Iraq did not know terrorism before then."

After the invasion, the country rapidly descended into chaos and the new order the American strategists had envisaged would arise with the toppling of Saddam Hussein is still a distant dream.

More than four years later, the country is still riven by overlapping civil conflicts that have divided its religious sects and US attempts to staunch the bloodletting by pumping in more than 160,000 troops have had little effect.

Like Um Wafa'a, who survives on handouts, Nidal Hussein too lost her husband.

He was killed three years ago, also in Karrada, when unidentified gunmen opened fire on his vehicle. Three of her children were wounded.

Sitting alongside her, her 11-year-old son Ammar follows the conversation of the adults unsmilingly. He takes off his prosthesis and rests the stump of his leg on the couch. His left leg was sliced off at the knee.

Watching him limping later, Hussein sighs and murmurs: "September 11 for me was far less terrible than this."

The district of Karrada is still recovering from the July attack. The debris of a four-storey building remains as a stark reminder — clothes of children and cooking implements can still be seen amid the rubble.

Not far away, in the sprawling east Baghdad district of Sadr City, Hellal Younis, a 50-year-old Shia, is equally perplexed.

He lost a leg on November 23, 2006, when six car bombs exploded simultaneously in the impoverished neighbourhood. More than 200 people died in the blasts, in one of the deadliest days of violence since the invasion.

"What we experience every day is 100 times worse than September 11," said the father of eight. "Each day hundreds of Iraqis were killed."

Dressed in a dishadasha, or traditional Arab robe, he adds slowly: "We have September 11 here every minute."

Last Mod: 10 Eylül 2007, 12:31
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