Friday, December 12, 2008

The bombing

The Abdullah restaurant was the kind of place Iraqis took their families on special occasions. It was the kind of place high-ranking officials in the northern city of Kirkuk chose for power lunches, where they dug in to plates on tables covered with white cloths as water burbled from a decorative fountain.
On Thursday, as families celebrated the Eid al-Adha holiday and Arab and Kurdish leaders talked reconciliation in the crowded dining room, it was the kind of place a suicide bomber decided was the perfect target. He set off his explosives during the height of the lunch rush, killing at least 50 people, wounding about 100, and ending what had been a remarkable stretch of calm nationwide during the four-day Eid celebration.

The above is from Tina Susman's "Kirkuk bomb shatters a moment of reconciliation in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times) and she really is one the best writers the Green Zone has had since the start of the illegal war. Forget her on the treaty where she's as useless as all but one reporter for a domestic outlet, set that episode aside and just grade her on the way she pulls in the reader reporting the same things that other outlets do. She really does a have a gift for story telling. So yesterday's bombing claimed as many as 57 lives (plus the bomber) and left over 120 injured. Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) adds:

Hundreds of families were inside the Abdullah restaurant, an area landmark, celebrating the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, police and hospital officials said. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq in six months. Many of the victims were women and children.
"I had just finished lunch and went to the washing area, leaving my family and relatives sitting at the table, when the explosion happened," said Kamal Aziz Khokaram, 55, a Kurdish businessman. "I fell to the ground, and then got up and hurried back to see two of my friends stretched out on the floor, stained in blood. My wife and my three children were wounded. I saw scores of the wounded, some standing up bleeding and others lying on the floor soaked in blood."

Timothy Williams gets a Baghdad byline at the New York Times and you have to wonder if his peers played a joke on him? He includes this: "Even before the bombing, the fear of violence in Kirkuk was so high that the city was exempted from nationwide provincial elections, scheduled for Jan. 31." While violence was and is a concern the why of the violence is the issue when it comes to Kirkuk. It's disputed territory with the central government claiming it and the Kurdistan region claiming it. In fact, as the Times has reported, the KRG has been shipping Kurds into the area -- 'housing' them in a stadium in some cases -- in an effort to influence any vote or census. Amazingly considering how much time Williams spends sketching out history (most of it not specific to Kirkuk), he fails to use the term so often applied to the city, the reason it is in dispute and wanted by competing interests: "oil rich Kirkuk." Williams quotes Abdalla Kabab's supervisor Shirzad Mowfak Zangana explaining, "All of a sudden we heard a very loud explosion. Two of the walls collapsed, and then the next thing I remember is that I felt blood covering my face. People were screaming. Children were crying. Smoke filled all three dining rooms."

AP reports that singer and host of the TV program "The Sweet Voice" Kanaan Mohammed Saleh was among the dead in yesterday's bombings:

He took his wife, Bushra, three young children and his newlywed brother and sister-in-law along for the occasion, which also marked the end of the four-day Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha, according to another brother, Karim.

The brother said Kanaan's wife was seriously wounded and the other five relatives were killed in Thursday's bombing, which has shaken growing public confidence in a sharp decline in violence.

Meanwhile Carole Laleve (UNHCR) notes that the United Nations agency helped "the 50,000th Iraqi refugee submitted for resettlement" in Syria yesterday:

UNHCR has not been bragging about the statistic, which has resulted from the violence and persecution that has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee Iraq in recent years. But Mohamed* was thrilled when he was given the news that he and his family had been recommended for resettlement in Sweden. "I felt that our suffering had been acknowledged, and that was important to me," he told UNHCR staff in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
The resettlement programme, covering refugees in Egypt, the Gulf states, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Yemen, began last year when it became apparent that some people would never be able to return to their homeland and could not, or would not, remain in host countries.
With 21,312 submissions in 2007 and 29,684 from January to the end of November this year, UNHCR hopes the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees will continue to be given an opportunity to rebuild their lives in third countries.
Laurens Jolles, the UNHCR representative in Syria, which hosts the largest refugee population from Iraq, said the agency had worked hard over the past year to give the most vulnerable Iraqis an opportunity to rebuild their lives in a new home. "It is vital for resettlement countries to allow them to start anew as quickly as possible," he added.

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