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Left lonely by killers Iraqi father tells of loss

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, Nov 21 (Reuters) There was nothing left for Abd al-Sattar Obeid but to raise his arms heavenward, and weep.

His sons mown down by gunmen in Baghdad, he was, he said, alone, another forlorn victim of Iraq's descent into nightmare.

''I'm alone now. I have no sons,'' Obeid, 54, said outside a hospital where he had registered his two sons' deaths and was loading the coffins onto the roof of a car for the funeral.

Ali, 28, and 27-year-old Thaer were shot dead on Sunday during a memorial service for their younger brother, Mohammed. He was gunned down with his uncle and two cousins last month.

Among 100-odd other Iraqis whose deaths were counted by the media on Sunday, Ali and Thaer were just statistics, and quite possibly not even that -- many such killings simply go unreported in a country where bureaucracy has all but collapsed.

In a chance encounter with a Reuters journalist, Obeid shed light on his family's disaster in a way that statistics rarely can on the darkness engulfing Iraq.

''Yesterday there was a mourning procession for my son and my brother and his two sons who were killed 40 days ago,'' he said.

''In the evening, during the rites, some gunmen arrived, about 20 of them. They didn't bother to mask their faces. They were carrying Kalashnikovs and pistols.

''I begged them. I told them: 'Please don't kill anyone. We have done nothing. What have we done to deserve this?' But they didn't listen to me. They killed my two other sons and ran.'' Obeid, a Sunni Arab pensioner, said he had no idea why they were attacked. If he does know, he was not saying -- but he certainly had no plans to go home again. Ever.

His neighbourhood, Dora in south Baghdad, is among the most violent in a violent city, with sectarian gangs extorting money and forcing people from homes in a form of ethnic cleansing.

''Everyone at the funeral fled and I was left alone with the bodies. I called the police for help but they didn't come,'' he said. ''I was alone all night. The bodies lay there till morning.

''Now I have lost three sons. One had five children, the other two daughters and the third a son and two daughters. I'm alone now. All my sons are killed and I don't know what I'm going to do with all these children. I have no sons.'' Bereft as he is, Obeid was far from alone in his grief. A hospital official responsible for death certificates told Reuters: ''Yesterday, in my eight-hour shift, I dealt with 37 bodies like these ... Today looks like being much the same.'' REUTERS SB VA RAI1019

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