Friday, December 28, 2007

Shopowners Flee Mixed Baghdad Areas

BAGHDAD - Shiite taxi driver Aly Kaabi used to fear for his life each time his Mercedes needed a spare part. The place to seek replacements was a Sunni-dominated Baghdad neighborhood ruled at the time by militants from al-Qaida in Iraq.

Now, Kaabi gets his car fixed in a new industrial zone in an east Baghdad Shiite stronghold, itself a mirror image of another that has emerged in a Sunni-dominated western neighborhood.

The sectarian strife that first separated Baghdad's residents is now splitting its businesses - suggesting the divisions are becoming permanent.

The simple interactions that make up normal life in cities around the world - buying gas, going to a grocery store, fixing your car - are now conducted along strictly sectarian lines.

Despite a dramatic drop in violence and the expulsion of many al-Qaida in Iraq extremists over the last six months, many customers and shop owners in the capital say they will not return to their old mixed neighborhoods, fearing a revival of the bloodshed.........

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