Aftermath of a Baghdad bombing: a reporter's view
One day after a bombing killed 135 people in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Sadriya market, correspondent Sam Dagher visited the market.
The most striking image, for me, was the old lady. She was wrapped in a black abaya, wandering through the wreckage of charred buses and mangled vehicles. She kept repeating: "This is doomsday. God is greatest."Skip to next paragraph
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I also saw utter anger and disbelief among the residents and shopkeepers. Government officials I had reached by telephone and heard on state television earlier in the day insisted that the capital's security plan was still on track, despite suffering the biggest breach since it was launched in mid-February.
The US and Iraqi forces may have reduced sectarian street fighting. But Al Qaeda is making its presence felt with major bombings. And the Iraqi government's comments only served to highlight the widening disconnect between the government based inside the well-guarded Green Zone and its people in what is commonly referred to by Westerners as the Red Zone.
At the open-air food market, I saw Iraqis desperately clutching to shreds of normalcy.
I entered Sadriya with my Iraqi colleagues through a pedestrian-only section that had been barricaded on both ends after a bombing on Feb. 3 that killed 137 people. The hustle and bustle resembled similar working-class markets I've seen in Amman, Cairo, or Damascus.
Vendors were hawking fresh lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes heaped up on wooden carts. Inside the arcades on both sides of the street, raw meat hung in the windows of butcher shops, pastry shops displayed enormous trays of syrup-drenched sweets, and the smell of grilled kabobs wafted from the many restaurants.
I saw defiant banners signed by the local branch office of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Construction laborers were back working Thursday, rebuilding shops destroyed in February's bombing.
In one shop, Abu Ali was busy preparing round meat balls known as kubbah.
"What happened yesterday was a catastrophe. The security plan is working in some areas of the city, but not here," he told me. "But I must work to feed my children; we have no other source of income."
His business partner Abu Jassim nodded in agreement. He had been through this once already. He pulled his shirt back, displaying wounds on his shoulder sustained in the February bombing.
At the end of the street and beyond white-painted barricades, I stepped into a panorama of destruction.
The entire square was covered in soot, and hundreds of people were gathered around a crater. Behind them, there was an outer ring of burned car and bus skeletons. Revered Shiite leaders, Imam Hussein and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, stared down from giant posters on the walls.
Most of those killed Wednesday were laborers working in the market, pushing carts and running errands. They had boarded buses that were going to transport them home after a hard day's work. Most were going back to Jameela, a neighborhood within the Sadr City slum. They earned on average 10,000 dinars ($8) a day.
I walked past the crater crowd and into one of the destroyed shops on one side of the square, known to most as Al Nahda.
Jaber Saleh, an elderly bespectacled man, sobbed as he sat amid the ruins of his hardware store. His door was reduced to a surreal sculpture of twisted metal. Emptied boxes of nails and dented gallon paint cans were scattered on the floor.