Iraqis remember deadly Karrada attack one year on
Iraqis have marked the first anniversary of the deadliest bombing in the country since the 2003 US invasion – and the deadliest terror attack of 2016 - which killed more than 300 people.
Mourners gathered in Karrada – a popular shopping district in central Baghdad which was teeming with shoppers preparing for Eid last year – to remember the hundreds who lost their lives.
Much of the damage has been repaired, but a massive banner bearing images of the victims still hangs at the site, and the psychological wounds inflicted by the fear and loss are far from healed.
"I still feel as though the bombing happened yesterday. I was very close when the explosion occurred. We were not able to do anything because of the shock," Laith Fadhel al-Hussein told AFP.
"When I come here, I feel a severe (pain) in my heart," said Hussein, a 42-year-old who lost four cousins and a nephew in the attack.
Food was prepared by relatives of some of the victims and distributed to the dozens of people gathered at the site of the bombing.
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Sadiq Issa, 43, lost nine relatives in the attack.
"After hearing the news, my father had a stroke," Issa said, while his mother lost all movement in her arms and legs, he added.
Even now, "we are not sleeping". "I am a survivor. I saw my nephews slaughtered," he said.
"This place means everything to me – here, I lost my families and friends and neighbours and all my loved ones," he said.
While surrounding areas have been repaired, the "Laith Complex" building is still empty with the banner with pictures of the victims hanging at the front.
The intense mourning following last year's attack was punctured by angry protests with accusations fired at the government fpr not doing enough to protect civilians.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered changes to Baghdad's security measures, including withdrawing the fake bomb detectors from use.
But the process of the building's restoration and paying compensation to the victims and their families since the attack has been questioned by some.
Firas, a 36-year-old who lost his brother in the attack, said the government has not followed through on its pledges.
"They took advantage of the feelings of the people and broke all their promises," he said.
Hisham Sabah, 33, also criticised the government's response.
"Imagine, God forbid, it this happened in another country – the state would help the families of the martyrs," he said.
"This is the worst massacre since the fall of (Saddam Hussein's) regime," but the authorities put those seeking compensation through "impossible procedures that make you hate the country".