Cafes shut, sports fields empty as war returns to Iraq
By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - In an evening in late June, Yasir al-Nuaimi draped an Iraqi flag over his shoulder and headed out to watch a soccer match being shown on television at a cafe in western Baghdad. The 20-year-old told his mother to pray for his team to win.
Later that night a bomb hidden inside a grocery bag tore through the cafe where he and other football fans had gathered to watch the Iraqi national youth team play against Egypt.
One minute the men were cheering for their team and the next screaming in terror and pain, witnesses said.
"Why did they kill my young son?" Yasir's father Ahmed said. In tears, he sat in the family home holding Yasir's Iraqi flag, stiff with his son's dried blood.
"He was only watching a game! They killed me and his mother too, not just him. They broke our hearts."
Iraqis have endured extreme violence for years, but since the since the start of 2013 the intensity of attacks on civilians has dramatically increased, reversing a trend that had seen the country grow more peaceful.
Attacks have spread to some of the few places left for public entertainment, turning Baghdad into a giant fortified prison of concrete blast walls, where once again few now dare to socialize in public.
The attacks have raised fears of a return to full-blown sectarian conflict in a country where ruling Shi'ites and minority Sunni Muslims and Kurds have yet to find a stable way of sharing power. Continued...