IRAQ: Burial in Najaf for Baghdad bomb victims
By Tuesday afternoon, what was thought to be the last of the dead were brought to the Valley of Peace cemetery, the most sacred burial ground for Iraq’s Shiite majority.
Undertaker Mehdi Assadi had listened to mourners’ screams as at least 80 of the estimated 155 killed in Sunday’s Baghdad bombing were buried in the Valley of Peace. Families unloaded loved ones from wood coffins to be washed and then wrapped in white shrouds. From there, Assadi or another grave digger led mourners to the burial plots. At the graves, Assadi presided over final prayers and recited the names of Shiite Islam's 12 imams.
Among those Assadi buried was Atheer, a 19-year-old policeman whose body was torn apart in Sunday’s attack. Assadi thought about Atheer’s tattered remains Tuesday night: All that was left of him were his arms and legs and clumps of flesh.
Then Assadi thought about another victim named Salim. Shrapnel had cut the top of Salim’s head. He had just gotten married and was the family’s breadwinner. Salim had been in central Baghdad to ask about salaries when the bombs exploded.
Assadi could still remember Salim’s mother crying: “Who after you will bring me 7UP? Who will bring me my prayer water?” and then her vow: “I’ll live on Najaf’s road so I can be close to you."
— Text and photograph by Times correspondent Saad Fakhrildeen in Najaf.