Spiraling sectarian violence and weak rule of law could tip the country back into civil war
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As I walk through a crowded market in Bayaa on a late afternoon in December, the mostly Shi’ite neighborhood of western Baghdad is bustling. On either side are vendors selling umbrellas, children’s clothing, bottles of perfume and other household goods. Hundreds of shoppers slowly move past the stalls, sometimes stopping to look and buy. The whole area is a soft target, full of civilians, most of them probably Shi’ite. Two weeks before, a suicide bomber took advantage of that vulnerability, walking into a coffee shop next to the market and blowing himself up, killing 15 people.
The blast was one of at least 41 suicide bombings in Iraq in the last two months of 2013, the deadliest year since 2008, and while no one claimed responsibility, the people of Bayaa assume that the bomber was Sunni — and that the bombing was part of an increasingly murderous campaign by al-Qaeda.