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A sidewalk stained with blood, sorrow

July 16, 2007|Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Wail Alhafith | Times Staff Writers

BAGHDAD — An old man sat wailing in a plastic chair Sunday in the middle of a busy market street here, a pool of blood at his feet. It was all that was left of his grandson Ammar.

"He lay on the ground right here," said Haji Kareem of Ammar, 15, who was killed in a car bombing Sunday afternoon along with nine other people, including several women and youths.

About 25 people were injured in the attack in front of Kareem's small kebab restaurant in the central Baghdad neighborhood of Karada. Kareem said his other grandson, Khudhayir, 14, lost his hand in the attack, and his wife was also injured.

"Ammar, Khudhayir," he cried, "may my eyes go blind."

Kareem, a heavyset man with a white beard, searched the pocket of his beige dishdasha robe, bloodstains on its hem, for his heart medicine. It was missing. Unwilling to quit his vigil, he had a relative fetch the bottle from his home above the restaurant.

As the old man waited, young men approached and embraced him. He welcomed them. When they cried, so did he.

Time passed, and two youths came to stand near Kareem. They didn't notice they were standing on the bloodstained sidewalk.

"Don't step here, please," he said quietly. "This is the blood of Ammar."

An Iraqi army officer arrived with some guards. A young man asked why troops were not doing more to stop attacks in the neighborhood.

"Let us do our own security," he said. "We have plenty of men. We can do a checkpoint here on the street and not let any stranger through."

Kareem kept watch as people visited the bombing site late into the day. A tow truck hauled away remnants of the white Toyota Corolla that had exploded. People swept up rubble and broken glass and loaded it into a garbage truck. Eventually, two men arrived with a bucket of water and a mop and began to clean the sidewalk.

The old man began to wail again, doubling over and throwing his arms toward the ground as the blood washed away.

"They washed you away from this life, Ammar," he said. "Now only your name is left."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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