BAGHDAD – A salesman rescued a baby from a blaze ignited by a car bombing in a Shiite neighborhood Tuesday, reaching through the shattered window and grabbing the boy after the blast killed his mother and eight other people.
The rescue, which witnesses described to an Associated Press reporter at the scene, highlighted the often overlooked role of Iraqi civilians in the aftermath of such bombings. Although violence has tapered off greatly over the past year, deadly attacks still plague the capital.
Iraqis tend to try to help one another after bombings and often drive victims to hospitals because ambulances can be slow in getting to the scene. But salesman Asad Raad's act was particularly notable because a burning car can explode if the fuel tanks are on fire, and bombings are often quickly followed by other attacks intended to kill rescuers.
Raad rushed out of his motorcycle shop after the explosion shook the Kazimiyah area of northwest Baghdad. He plucked the infant from the back seat, where he lay next to his dead mother.
Rescuers pulled a badly burned man, presumed to be the baby's father, from the car and rushed him to the hospital. In the confusion, no one at the scene determined the couple's names.
"The baby suffered light burns in the face," Raad told the AP. "I took the baby to my house and called the police. They told me to keep him for the time being."
Throughout the afternoon, relatives brought Raad milk and diapers for the baby, who was sleeping hours later.
"If nobody comes forward to claim him, my family is thinking of adopting him. To save and care for the baby is the only thing a human being can do in such circumstances," said Raad, a newlywed. "I cannot stand still and watch. I will do everything possible to protect the baby who lost his mother."
Tuesday's blast, nine hours before President Barack Obama touched down in Baghdad for a brief visit, came a day after bombings killed 37 people in Shiite areas of the capital and raised fears of new sectarian fighting.
The Interior Ministry warned of more car bombings in Baghdad and said security was being tightened to prevent them. The announcement followed public criticism of the police and army for failing to prevent Monday's attacks.
"We hold the security forces responsible for what happened," said Mustafa Radhi as he buried his relatives — a young husband and wife killed along with their newborn son Monday. "Innocent people and children died because of their negligence."
No group claimed responsibility for the recent blasts, but the U.S. military said the attacks bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group that has targeted Shiite civilians in the past.
The government blamed supporters of Saddam Hussein in league with al-Qaida and suggested the blasts were timed for Tuesday's anniversary of the founding of his disbanded Baath party. Thursday is also the sixth anniversary of the U.S. capture of Baghdad, which ended Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.
Also Tuesday, a suicide car bomber killed three policemen and wounded seven people at a police checkpoint in Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.
The bullet-riddled body of a member of a U.S.-allied Sunni paramilitary ground was found Tuesday in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of the capital, police said. The victim had been kidnapped the day before.