Jihad against soccer fans. By Kim Gamel for the Associated Press:
BAGHDAD – Two suicide car bombings struck soccer fans in Baghdad as they were celebrating Iraq’s victory in the Asian Cup semifinal on Wednesday, killing at least 27 people and wounding more than 100, officials said.
The victims were among the thousands of revelers who took to the streets of the capital after the country’s national soccer team beat South Korea to reach the tournament’s final against Saudi Arabia on Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The first attack took place about 6:30 p.m. when a bomber exploded in a crowd of people cheering near a well-known ice cream parlor in Baghdad’s western neighborhood of Mansour, according to police and hospital officials. At least 11 people were killed and more than 60 wounded, the officials said.
Another suicide car bomber detonated his payload about 45 minutes later in the midst of dozens of vehicles filled with revelers near an Iraqi army checkpoint in the eastern district of Ghadeer, killing at least 16 people, including two soldiers, and wounding nearly 60, area officials said.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.
The second attack occurred as Iraqis of all ages were packed on top of cars, pickups and minibuses, waving Iraqi flags and shirts, while others danced in the streets near the checkpoint. Men put towels over their heads or sprayed cars with water for relief in the hot summer weather.
Thousands of fans also gathered in the central district of Karradah to celebrate, dancing, beating drums and chanting “Iraq, Iraq.” Elsewhere in city, traffic snarled as cars, Iraqi flags flying from their windows, moved slowly amid hundreds of fans. Motorists honked their horns.
The successful run in the Asian Cup has been a cause of much joy in this wartorn country, with Iraqis saying the mixed makeup of the team showed the country’s rival ethnic and religious factions can unite despite years of sectarian violence.