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Iraqis Sympathize with Victims of London Bombings


An Iraqi Army soldier from the First Brigade, First Battalion, patrols along Haifa Street in Central Baghdad
No stranger to devastating terror attacks, Iraqis in the capital are expressing sympathy and sadness for the hundreds of people wounded and killed in Thursday's terrorist bombings in London.

Having survived nearly 2.5 years of a violent insurgency, terror is an emotion nearly every Iraqi in the capital knows intimately.

On Friday, some of the residents here expressed sadness for the British people and for the victims of Thursday's deadly attacks in the heart of London.

Explosions tore through three underground trains and a red double-decker bus during morning rush hour, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 700 others.

A 41-year-old Baghdad shopkeeper, Ahmed Mahmoud, says he grieves for the British families who lost loved ones in the bombings. Having lost a close relative in one of many car bombings in Baghdad over the past year, Mr. Mahmoud says he understands grief all too well.

The shopkeeper says he feels sorry for the people in London because the people there got to experience for themselves the daily suffering of the Iraqis. Mr. Mahmoud says he believes terrorism will soon touch the lives of everyone in the world, no matter where they live.

A group calling itself the Secret organization of al-Qaida in Europe has taken responsibility for the blasts and says they were carried out in retaliation for Britain's involvement in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the group's authenticity has not yet been confirmed, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the bombings carried the hallmarks of an al-Qaida-related attack.

Britain has about 9,000 soldiers in Iraq and remains one of Washington's staunchest allies in the war on terror.

Many British troops, based mostly in the Shi'ite-dominated area of southern Iraq, expressed shock and dismay about the London bombings, but said that terrorists would not deter them from their mission to help stabilize the country.

A high-school teacher in Baghdad, Abdullah Salim, says he, too, was shocked to hear the news of the attacks in London and criticized ordinary Muslims worldwide for not condemning terrorist acts more forcefully.

He says he believes that the continued military presence of the United States in Iraq, and allegations of abuses of Muslim detainees, have created a dangerous perception among many Muslims, who may now be tacitly agreeing with terrorists who target not only the United States, but its allies.

"I think the United States has to try to correct the impression taken by all Arabs and all Muslims that America is fighting Islam," said Abdullah Salim.

The Bush administration has repeatedly said that the war on terror is not a war against Muslims.

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair blamed Islamic extremists for the attacks in London, but cautioned against believing that they speak for the majority of Muslims.

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