Iraqi police pit football field in bid to stop terrorist attacks

Photo of a football field in the centre of Baqubah, taken by one of our Observers.
 
 
While travelling through downtown Baqubah, a city to the northwest of Baghdad, our Observer photographed this peculiar football field. At first, you might think the field is under construction — but you would be wrong. These holes and piles of dirt are in fact the latest in Iraqi anti-terrorism measures.
 
This police-led initiative aimed to destroy the field in order to prevent youths from playing football, a very popular sport in Iraq. Indeed, lately, there have been several bomb attacks perpetrated on football fields during sporting events and even during small-scale neighbourhood matches. The last such bomb, on July 1, killed 12 people.
 
These new attacks are but a few of the innumerable acts of violence that have plagued the country over the last decade. Iraq is a predominantly Shiite country (more than 75% of its Muslim population is Shiite) that was long ruled by a Sunni minority, led by Saddam Hussein. Since his fall from power, sectarian violence — primarily targeting Shiite and Christian communities — has devastated the country.
 
Attacks in Iraq have killed over 250 people since the beginning of July 2013.
 
Video filmed last February showing the aftermath of a bomb attack on a football field in Al Shuala, west of Baghdad. 
Contributors

“Due to their inability to ensure residents’ safety, the authorities are denying them the few means of distraction that they have left”

Ali is a 23-year old law student. He lives in Baqubah, 60 kilometres to the northwest of Baghdad.
 
Attacks on neighbourhood football fields are a new phenomenon in Iraq. The first attacks took place only a few months ago [Editor’s Note: It occurred in late February and caused 18 deaths]. These attacks are taking place both on makeshift football fields in residential neighbourhoods and on fields where amateur teams play. Most of the time, they are hit by car bombs or regular bombs. These attacks do not target a particular community or area [football field attacks have been taking place in Baqubah, a primarily Sunni city, as well as Hilla, a primarily Shiite city south of Baghdad]. In fact, we don’t even know who is behind them.
 
Football fields are being targeted because crowds gather there, especially during adult matches, where there are often large groups of supporters. By attacking such places, terrorists know there will be many civilian victims. This is their main motivation: to sow terror in the streets so that our cities will slowly die. In fact, since the start of Ramadan [on July 10], policemen have been asking the owners of cafés to close after 8pm, even though tradition dictates that people go out in the evenings during Ramadan after the breaking of the fast. But the authorities are very concerned that these crowds may incite further attacks.
 
The army and police dug these holes, which, to me, are a symbol of massive failure. Due to their inability to ensure residents’ safety, the authorities are denying them the few means of distraction that they have left. In the end, the terrorists won, since this is what they wanted.
 
A football field in Baqubah. Photo sent by our Observer.
Post written by FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira).

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Reply to comment | The FRANCE 24 Observers

excellent blog I'm a huge football fan from Sweden

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