Iraqi bridge reconnects Sunni, Shiite enclaves

BAGHDAD — In the most dramatic sign yet of improving security in Baghdad, officials on Tuesday reopened a bridge where one of the signature horrors of the Iraq war occurred, a stampede that killed more than 800 Shiite pilgrims.

Hundreds of politicians, tribal leaders and local residents packed a ceremony on the Bridge of the Imams to mark the re-establishment of the link severed three years ago between Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods on opposite sides of the Tigris river.

“We have broken the backbone of terror,” declared Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, commander of military operations in Baghdad, in a speech. “The opening of this bridge is an achievement for all Iraqis.”

The 2005 stampede, sparked by a rumor of a suicide bomber, was the most deadly single incident after the U.S.-led invasion. After the tragedy, the Bridge of the Imams was barricaded, and it remained closed as sectarian warfare raged in Baghdad.

In recent months violence has plummeted in Iraq, but the U.S. military has not yet handed over security responsibility for Baghdad to Iraqi forces, as it has in 13 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. An average of four attacks a day occur in the capital, according to the U.S. military.

The U.S. military said that the decision to reopen the Bridge of the Imams was made by Iraqi authorities. A senior police official, Gen. Karim al-Khazraji, said the goal was “to make the citizens feel OK, that security is good.”

Rana Jassim, a 30-year-old mother of two who lives near the bridge on the heavily Shiite Kadhimiyah side, clapped and sang as she strolled the span with her family. It had been two years since she had been in mainly-Sunni Adhamiyah on the opposite bank.

“The situation was bad,” said her husband, Samel Lafta, 35, a government employee. “Not because of the regular people of Adhamiyah. It was some foreign people. Foreign terrorists, they tried to destroy the relations between us.”

“There were good relations in the past between the people of Adhamiyah and Kadhimiyah. We used to come here and eat dinner at restaurants all the time,” Jassim said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Police: Everett Safeway ex-worker accused of trying to ram customers

The man, 40, was showing symptoms of psychosis, police wrote. Officers found him circling another parking lot off Mukilteo Boulevard.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the 196th ST SW Improvement Project near the 196th and 44th Ave West intersection in Lynnwood, Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Jarred by anti-Semitic rants, Lynnwood council approves tax increase

Three people spewed hate speech via Zoom at a council meeting this week. Then, the council moved on to regular business.

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

A speed camera facing west along 220th Street Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Traffic cameras, and tickets, come to Edmonds; Mukilteo could be next

New school zone cameras in Edmonds will begin operating in January. Mukilteo is considering enforcement cameras as well.

A suspected gas explosion on Wednesday destroyed a house in the 19700 block of 25TH DR SE in Bothell, Washington. (Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
After a newly bought Bothell house exploded, experts urge caution

The owners had closed on their purchase of the house just two days earlier. No one was hurt in the explosion.

3 men charged in armed home invasion near Everett

Prosecutors allege the trio targeted other Asian American homes across Snohomish, Whatcom and King counties.

Team members prep for the upcoming ski season at Stevens Pass Resort in Skykomish, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Any day now: All eyes on snow forecast at Stevens Pass

The ski area was a flurry of activity this week, as staff made sure a new lift and app were running smoothly.

Carjacking suspects tracked via GPS from Everett to Renton, then arrested

A King County resident reported two people stole their Mercedes at gunpoint. Hours later, its GPS tracker pinged in north Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.