MOSUL, Iraq—The “My Fair Lady” restaurant was making a brisk trade when the suicide bomber stepped into the open-fronted eatery flanking a busy roundabout in east Mosul and detonated the explosives strapped around his waist. The blast swept through the cavernous interior, killing staff and guests enjoying a lunch of kebab, salad, and soup in one of the city’s most famous restaurants.
The owners had defiantly reopened the My Fair Lady, or Sayidati al-Jamila in Arabic, soon after the so-called Islamic State was forced from the east bank of the Tigris, which bisects the city and now forms a natural barrier against the jihadists. With a reputation for good food, and occupying a prime spot in the bustling Zuhour neighborhood, it quickly became popular with locals and security personnel alike, in the process also attracting attention of the wrong kind.
"The restaurant was targeted because life was coming back to Mosul. This restaurant is the center of Zuhour, and Zuhour is the center of east Mosul," says Mohammed, the son of one of the owners.
The 22-year-old Mohammed, who wears a stylish leather jacket and trimmed beard, is close to tears as he recounts how his younger brother, his uncle, and his cousin were among the 10 fatalities of the Feb. 10 attack. His uncle, Hajji Nasser, was one of the three brothers who ran the restaurant, a well-known figure in Mosul and beyond.
When his death became known, condolences began flooding in not just from the city, but from all over Iraq and even from Iraqis living in Europe. Moslawis are horrified not just by his murder, but also by the terror threat that remains alive in the liberated part of the city even as a major new Iraqi government offensive has begun to take the western half.
The suicide attack on the restaurant was not the first bombing in government-controlled Mosul, as ISIS tries to prevent normality from returning to any part of the city, and these attacks raise questions about the extent to which the city as a whole can be brought under control even if the current offensive manages to push out the dug-in ISIS fighters on the western side of the Tigris.
In December, three car bombs reportedly disguised as a funeral procession killed 23 civilians in a crowded part of Gogjali, an outer suburb. From the other side of the river, the insurgents also target east Mosul with mortars and drones that drop grenades on groups of civilians and even schools that have reopened.
Hostilities on the east bank ceased in January after Iraqi special forces cleared it of insurgents in four months of fighting. But as the bombings show, the military was not able to eliminate the jihadist threat, now embodied by ISIS sleeper cells.Read More...
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