First Published: 2012-06-29


Car bomb leaves Baghdad slum residents homeless


More than 20 families have been made homeless following blast of explosives-packed car in Imam Ali slum in Iraqi capital.


Middle East Online

By Laith Hammoudi - BAGHDAD

A car bomb tore through the north Baghdad slum where Jihad Hussein and his wife lived, reducing their house to rubble and leaving them no choice but to take shelter in the yard of a Shiite shrine.

"It is a very shocking situation," said Hussein, 28. "I became homeless in seconds, but thank God I did not lose my life or my wife in the explosion."

Piles of concrete blocks, clothes and furniture are all that remain of many of the makeshift houses in Imam Ali slum after an explosives-packed car tore through the area on June 13, claiming the lives of seven people and leaving more than 20 families homeless.

The blast has left the Shiite area's impoverished residents mourning relatives and neighbours, and struggling to rebuild their shattered lives.

Hussein said he looked for houses to rent but the cheapest one he found was 150,000 Iraqi dinars ($125) per month, and it was in poor condition and would have required significant repairs.

And in any case, "I do not have this amount of money," said Hussein.

"None of my relatives want to help me because they don't have enough money to give me," he added, sitting in a meeting hall in Imam Ali, waiting for assistance from a Norwegian aid organisation.

Hussein had been living in the area since 2004, when his family had to leave the house they were renting because they could not afford an increase in the rent.

The slum, which was once a base for Saddam Hussein's security forces, was the only place he could find. He spent eight years in his simple house made of concrete blocks, which consisted of one bedroom and a kitchen.

After the blast, Hussein and his wife Fatima Safah slept on the ground in the stone-paved yard of the north Baghdad shrine of Musa Kadhim, the seventh of 12 revered Shiite imams, who died in 799 AD.

The blast not only cost Hussein his home, but also his job at a car accessories shop, as he missed work after the attack.

"The owner of the shop I worked for told me that he doesn't need me any more because he wants someone who is always with him," Hussein said.

"I told him about all my circumstances and that he should stand with me in my difficult conditions. He told me to call him later, which means that he doesn't want to talk to me."

Hussein said if he cannot find work soon, he will move to the Shiite shrine city of Karbala south of Baghdad, where a cousin said there are job opportunities.

Violence and hollow promises

Some of the residents of Imam Ali had already fled unrest elsewhere in Iraq, constructing houses at the former military base because they had nowhere else to go.

"We have more than 120 families in this place, and 45 percent of them are displaced from Sunni areas like Fallujah, Haswa, Abu Ghraib, Taji and other places," said Abdul Zahra Abdul Sadeh, a 57-year-old man who manages the area, adding that those people had been forced out by threats or violence.

The United Nations says some 1.3 million Iraqis remain internally displaced -- living in their country, but driven from their homes.

Abdul Sadeh complained that the authorities have done nothing to help those people who lost their families or houses and that the only officials to visit were two members of the Baghdad provincial council, who did nothing but make promises.

The attack that destroyed Hussein's home was part of a wave of violence across Iraq on June 13 that left 72 people dead and was later claimed by Al-Qaeda front group, the Islamic State of Iraq.

More attacks followed.

Two car bombs targeting Shiites commemorating Imam Kadhim's death killed 32 people in the capital on June 16, while a suicide bomber killed 22 people in an attack on Shiite mourners in Baquba, north of Baghdad, on June 18.

That attack came on the same day that Sami al-Massudi, the deputy head of the Shiite endowment which oversees Shiite religious sites in Iraq, said a roadside bomb hit his convoy in the Saidiyah area of south Baghdad, wounding three guards.

And at least 12 people were killed by roadside bombs, a suicide car bomb and a shooting on June 22, while 12 more were killed in two bombings on June 25.

And on Wednesday, three bombings killed 11 people, while 20 were killed in attacks on Thursday.

Along with the security forces, the Shiite majority has been a main target of Sunni Arab armed groups since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.

While violence in Iraq has declined dramatically since its peak in 2006-2007, attacks remain common. A total of 132 Iraqis were killed in violence in May, according to official figures.


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