An average of more than 100 civilians per day were killed in Iraq last month, the United Nations reported Tuesday, registering what appears to be the highest official monthly tally of violent deaths since the fall of Baghdad.
The attack in Kufa on Tuesday occurred near a major Shiite shrine, at an intersection where men, down on their luck and out of work, would gather each morning hoping that someone would hire them for a day of manual labor and the promise of a small wage.
On Tuesday, a man drove up in a van, leaned out of the window and made an offer of work, witnesses said. As the men pressed in close, and some started to climb in the back, the driver pushed a detonator and the van exploded, witnesses said.
The blast scattered bodies and street vendors’ carts, blackened nearby walls, dyed the ground red with blood and ignited pandemonium in the street. When Iraqi police officers arrived, the crowd pelted them with stones. According to The Associated Press, many demanded that the militia loyal to Mr. Sadr, the cleric, take over security of the city.
Mr. Sadr counts an enormous following among the Shiite poor and dispossessed in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The militia loyal to him, the Mahdi Army, has been blamed for many recent kidnappings and assassinations of Sunni Arabs.
Kufa and the nearby Shiite holy city of Najaf — because of their predominantly Shiite populations and tight control by Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated security forces — have largely been spared the sort of sectarian violence that has ravaged mixed cities like Baghdad and Baquba.
But Tuesday’s attack, coupled with several other suicide attacks this year in Kufa and Najaf, suggested an ominous deterioration in security even in Iraq’s demographically homogenous areas.
Iraqi Death Toll Rises Above 100 Per Day, U.N. Says
Kirk Semple, The New York Times, July 19, 2006
This is a truly frightening report. On the scale of the US that would translate to a daily casualty count of 1,000. Or a new 9/11 every three days. I find it hard to even try to imagine this sort of nightmare.