Robert Fisk: Shias are the targets as bombs bring carnage to bus station

Share
Related Topics

In the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, it was the place of the Last Goodbye, where tens of thousands of foot-soldiers, most of them Shia, left for the front, never to return. And yesterday, two car bombs blew up just after 8am at the same bus station, turning 22 vehicles into cauldrons of fire. Buses were among them, many of the passengers burnt alive in their seats.

By 11am - by which time the place was a graveyard of carbonised shops and cars - it was a place of anarchy and fear, masked policemen ordering motorists off the road as frightened American troops in Humvees screamed abuse at Iraqis who cut into their convoys.

The Nahda bus station, with its vast population from the Shia slums of Sadr City, is perhaps the most angry, dangerous area of Baghdad; which, of course, is one of the reasons why the bombers left their cars there. Even worse, they set off another explosion, perhaps a mortar, at the nearby al-Kindi hospital just as the wounded arrived.

In all - and this was only an initial count - 43 civilians were killed and more than 80 wounded in the deadliest bombing in Baghdad this month.

The power of the bombs was evident from the damage. On the roadway, I saw what was left of one of the cars packed with explosives: part of an engine block, a fuel tank pipe and just a few metres of wire. Yet a quarter of a mile away, buses and cars had been burnt out. Almost all the dead were incinerated in seconds.

The mortuaries here will calculate their numbers. And, of course, the Western media will forget. Seventeen Spanish soldiers killed in Afghanistan count for more than 43 dead Iraqis.

Shortly after the bombing, the Nahda bus station became a place of chaos, of hooded and masked policemen cursing civilians as they tried desperately to negotiate the crowded, angry streets, fearful of suicide bombers, of course, and of equally terrified US troops negotiating the same packed roads in their fragile Humvees. In a narrow street, Mohamed, my driver, managed to wedge himself between two American Humvees, a potentially deadly mistake because that is the tactic suicide bombers adopt to maximise their casualties, but to our immense good fortune, a US officer jumped out of one of their vehicles and remonstrated with us. His machine-gunner had already tried to turn his barrels on our car but could not deflect them low enough to open fire.

Burnt-out cars and buses lined the road. The hospital, in one of the poorest suburbs of Baghdad, had by that time been surrounded by US troops and Iraqi policemen - all, in this case, wearing balaclavas or scarves to cover their faces - and furious Shia Muslims stood outside. "They are so angry that they look like men from caves," an Iraqi friend said.

For once, it seemed, there were no suicide bombers involved, just old-fashioned car bombs, packed with explosives to kill the largest number of innocents in the least possible time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Head Chef

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Garden Centre complex base...

Recruitment Genius: Buyer

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Buyer is required to join thi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Between the covers: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, opposite Colin Firth's Mr Darcy, in the acclaimed 1995 BBC adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice'  

To talk about 'liking' a character may be a literary faux pas, but I don't care

Memphis Barker
Hinkley Point A to the right of development land where the reactors of Hinkley C nuclear power station are due to be built  

Should the UK really be putting its money into nuclear power in 2015?

Chris Green Chris Green
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen