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Iraqis face long future of fear as attacks mount

Published: Wednesday, July 8 2015 12:46 a.m. MDT

Abdul Hadi al-Obeidi, 65, a Sunni Muslim and is married to a Shiite woman who manages a grocery store in the Karrada Neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, poses for a portrait  Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Abdul Hadi al-Obeidi, 65, a Sunni Muslim and is married to a Shiite woman who manages a grocery store in the Karrada Neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, poses for a portrait Wednesday, July 4, 2012. "Every time I leave my house, I don't know what will happen to me. I can only leave it in God's hands," he said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) (Associated Press)

BAGHDAD — Whenever he leaves his home, Mohammed Jabar, a Sunni Muslim, carries his cellphone so his family can find out quickly whether he is safe if a deadly bomb attack hits. Shukria Mahmud, another Sunni, rarely ventures from her house because of the rash of violence that is gripping Iraq.

Laith Hashim, a young Shiite Muslim, is considering moving away from Iraq if security continues to disintegrate. Such a breakdown, he fears, would spark a new round of bitter sectarian fighting of the kind that brought the nation to the brink of civil war just a few years ago.

Tensions simmer between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities, yet they share an increasingly widespread despair. Al-Qaida-style attacks are on the rise, faith in the government's ability to keep people safe is on the wane and a fatalistic acceptance of a life of fear is perniciously settling in.

Laith Hashim, a teenaged Shiite Muslim, speaks with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Hashim considering moving from Iraq if security continues to disintegrate _ which he thinks would spark a new round of widespread sectarian fighting like the kind that brought the nation to be brink of civil war just a few years ago. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) (Associated Press) Laith Hashim, a teenaged Shiite Muslim, speaks with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Hashim considering moving from Iraq if security continues to disintegrate _ which he thinks would spark a new round of widespread sectarian fighting like the kind that brought the nation to be brink of civil war just a few years ago. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) (Associated Press)

Nine years after the U.S. led an invasion of Iraq that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein — purging the leadership and military of his supporters and leading to a fight against insurgents in a bloody guerrilla war that left more than 100,000 dead — Iraq's outlook is increasingly bleak in summer 2012.

Instead of a Western-style democracy functioning in peace and cooperation, what's been left behind is dysfunctional and increasingly violent. Many of the attacks of the past month have targeted Shiites on annual religious pilgrimages, raising fears of a return to the deadly cycle of destructive violence between Sunni and Shiite communities.

"The Sunnis should be warned that there will be retaliation if the attacks against Shiites continue," Hashim, 18, said Wednesday in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. The impoverished area in the capital's northeast is home to the Shiite Mahdi Army militia that battled al-Qaida during Iraq's darkest days between 2006 and 2008.

Firas Hadi, 43, a Shiite Muslim, speaks to the Associated Press in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Firas Hadi, 43, a Shiite Muslim, speaks to the Associated Press in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, July 4, 2012. "We used to say that tomorrow will be better than today," says Hadi, who owns owns car accessory shop in Baghdad. "But today, we say today is better that tomorrow."(AP Photo/Karim Kadim) (Associated Press)

"Patience can't last forever," he warned.

Iraqi officials and experts say worries of an impending blowup is exactly what Sunni extremists linked to al-Qaida are banking on. Dozens of bloody bombings and drive-by shootings that have killed 286 people over the past four weeks, including 11 on Wednesday, bear the terrorist network's hallmarks.

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