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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 22:19 GMT
Eyewitness: Baghdad's anger

By Rageh Omaar
BBC correspondent in Baghdad

Iraqi militiaman stands next to wrecked car in market
The scene was described as "almost apocalyptic"

The war came to Baghdad's Shaab neighbourhood on Wednesday and it left death and chaos in its wake.

In the midst of the carnage, people were separated, women left wondering where their families were.

This densely populated area was transformed into a wasteland by what one eyewitness described as at least one massive explosion.

All this in a poor ordinary area which must have thought it would escape the worst of this war.

That illusion was soon shattered. Into the scene of confusion Iraqi emergency service workers tried to recover the dead and wounded.

'Apocalyptic scene'

Now people who are left here are getting out.

Within minutes the sense of bewilderment began to turn into defiance and also anger

The explosion in this district of Baghdad took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

What is impossible to ascertain now is what possibly could have been a military target in such a populated area.

By late morning the district was transformed into an almost apocalyptic scene.

Ferocious sandstorms enveloped the city in a blood-red haze, it was as though the day was turned into perpetual dusk by the fine, choking sand.

Within minutes the sense of bewilderment began to turn to defiance and also anger.

What is a tragedy for the people of Shaab is a public relations disaster for London and Washington.

"We are just trying to make a living in our shops," one man told me.

"What do they want from us, why are they doing this? Our homes are gone and are livelihoods are gone."

Loss of support?

Another man explained that as soon as the missile hit, shrapnel was spread all over the area, then all the windows smashed and the walls disappeared.

Many of the injured civilians from the district are being treated in hospital.

The battle for the hearts and minds of Iraq's people is central to this war and the coalition could have lost the support of many here.

On Tuesday night Britain and the United States bombed Iraqi television.

Briefly, the Iraqi authority's control of the airwaves was halted, but it has since been back on air.

The targeting in the air strikes has not been indiscriminate but, as in all wars, there are mistakes and there are civilian casualties.

That seems to have been what has happened here, but the political price of such mistakes in this war will be much more costly.

Britain and the US are now seen by ordinary Iraqis as having made victims of those they say they want to liberate.

The movements of those reporting from Baghdad are restricted and their reports are monitored by the Iraqi authorities.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Paul Wood reports from Baghdad
"Local people are talking about a very high death toll"



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