After the bombs, lingering car wrecks haunt Iraqis

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BAGHDAD, Oct 7 (Reuters) Blackened, broken and twisted, they are a daily reminder of the violence which Baghdad residents would rather forget.

Across the Iraqi capital the shells of bombed and burnt-out cars litter the streets, stranded by the roadside long after the bombs go off, the dead and wounded are dragged away and the blood and shrapnel are swept up.

''Look at this ugly sight. How can someone forget the war when he sees these cars, their destruction, the blackness?'' asked Fayez Saddiq Ahmad, pointing to a central Baghdad parking lot filled with wrecked vehicles.

Dozens of cars in various stages of destruction have been dumped at the site, across the road from a school in the Salhiya district.

Some are almost intact, their windows blown out and black marks showing where an explosion may have struck. Others are charred shells, their doors or bonnets blown out by the blasts.

A few, probably used as car bombs, are little more than mangled sheets of metal. Traces of orange and white -- the distinctive colour of Baghdad taxis -- are the only recognisable feature in one pile of scrap.

''This has a psychological impact on people. When they see it they remember the fear, terror, death,'' said Wathiq Adnan. ''We want to remove this image and replace it with something more optimistic and joyful, so people can forget what is happening.'' US and Iraqi forces have stepped up security across Baghdad in recent months, hoping to stem the waves of roadside bombings and car bombs which have killed thousands of people since US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein four years ago.

Officials say the increased security patrols have curbed the rampant violence, but bombs are still a daily feature of Iraq's sectarian war.

In many parts of Baghdad cars are simply left at the scene of an attack -- dragged away from the traffic and abandoned by the side of the road.

The city municipality says 1,500 car wrecks have been removed so far this year, but concedes that many are still scattered around.

Some become playgrounds for young children, who clamber through the windscreen frames, play with the doors and jump from rusty roofs onto the bonnets.

But their lingering presence angers many residents.

''This is a very painful situation. We don't ever want to see it,'' said Mazen Kazem, standing among the wrecks in the parking lot. He called on authorities to clear the cars and plant trees and flowers in their place.

''...There is a school here. Children should be able to see a garden, not burnt out, exploded cars,'' he said.

REUTERS PD RAI1156

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