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Civil strife comes home as a son joins Sadr's army

The Monitor revisits the Methboub family. The youngest son has a new bike; another has joined a radical Shiite militia.

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Schoolboy Mahmoud was selling Pepsi on his Baghdad street when the bomb exploded one block up. Trampled as neighbors fled, he went home crying, falling into the comforting arms of his older sisters.

But that didn't end the horror of that deadly blast three weeks ago for the family of Iraqi widow Karima Selman Methboub and her eight children.

From the end of the corridor in their dilapidated downtown building, the shocked children watched as several bodies were collected on the next street hours after the deadly explosion.

"When you see some dead people, you feel the next time you are the target – like you are in line, waiting after them," says eldest daughter, Fatima. It was the second bomb in a week along the crowded street. "No one can be safe from these explosions," she says, adding that jittery Iraqi soldiers shot someone at the scene as they tried to identify a relative. "No one in Iraq feels safe."

The Monitor has followed the changing emotions of this family, as a window into the lives of ordinary Iraqis, since late 2002, before US forces invaded Iraq. They are typical of Iraq's legions of poor, for whom daily violence – at the hands of insurgents, and more recently sectarian militias – has turned security into an obsession.

And this family's reactions under such pressure are typical, too, leading them to beliefs and actions that they never thought possible after the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled off its plinth April 9, 2003.

While hardly pro-Mr. Hussein, some Methboub family members crave the order and relative security that they remember nostalgically of the dictatorial era. Fatima, 19, even praises the man himself, as a reassuring "father" figure who "smiles very nicely" at the television cameras of the tribunal court, where Hussein faces the death sentence for crimes against humanity.

And one son, Mohamed, has joined the Shiite militia called the Mahdi Army, run by radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Mohamed, 21, and fellow family members speak of his good work, including helping to stop one kidnapping and halting gambling and alcohol sales.

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