“For the last four months we have seen attacks around Baghdad but now they are inside [the city],” says Mohamed al-Rubeiy, a Baghdad provincial council member for Karada. “Karada is the center of Baghdad and Baghdad is the center of the government. That means the terrorists are sending a message to the world: ‘We are back and we are here.’”
The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al Qaeda-linked umbrella for insurgent groups, warned in a statement that storming the church was just the beginning of attacks on Christians. Tuesday’s bombings, which included a Shiite mosque, prompted fears of renewed sectarian violence.
The government Tuesday night imposed emergency measures, including temporarily closing roads, banning cars and raising security forces to their highest alert level.
On Wednesday morning, streets normally choked with traffic were deserted as many parents kept their children home from school. Shoppers who normally would have been out buying clothing and gifts for upcoming religious holidays stayed home, waiting to see how the day would unfold.
“You can see the streets are empty – people are afraid,” says Mr. Ali, a clean-cut young shopkeeper who lost friends in the bombing. The shelves of the year-old shop were stocked with protein powder and body-building supplements. He said many of his customers were young men who couldn’t find other jobs and were trying to build up muscle to become security guards.
Around Baghdad, security force manpower and hours increased. Roads leading out of the city were temporarily closed.
At one checkpoint, the non-commissioned officer in charge says he and his men hav lost faith in their superiors and the political leaders they blame for the chaos.
“There is no patriotism anymore. Everyone here just works for their salary – if they cut my pay I’d leave,” says the officer, who did not want his name used because he would be punished for talking to the media.