Thursday, December 16, 2010

 

Sunni police officer gives his life to save Shiites in Iraq suicide bombing

In Seconds Before Blast, the Making of a Hero
By JACK HEALY
December 16, 2010

As the suicide bomber clutched the detonator to his explosive belt, preparing to spray fire and shrapnel into a religious procession here, an Iraqi police officer named Bilal Ali Muhammad faced a choice between his own life and something larger.

If he ran and took cover, Mr. Muhammad, 31, had a chance to save himself, to continue supporting his widowed mother, to help put his younger brother through college and to watch his three young daughters grow up.

Instead, the officer — a Sunni Muslim — threw himself onto the bomber, blunting the explosion’s impact on the Shiite worshipers.

“He gave his soul to the country,” said his mother, Alaahin Hassan, holding two of his daughters in her lap as dozens of black-veiled women filled her living room this week with ritualized wails of grief. “He believed in God. That made him great.”

In a country fractured by sect and ethnicity, from villages like this all the way to the government that is finally forming in Baghdad, Mr. Muhammad’s last act was a burst of heroism and humanity set against the viciousness that still stalks Iraq.

Many Iraqis see the police and the army as corrupt, incompetent and brutal, still unprepared to secure the country as the Americans withdraw over the next year. But Mr. Muhammad’s death, one of thousands among Iraqi security forces, offers a counterpoint to that view...

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