Iraq cafes advised how to stop a suicide bomber

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BAGHDAD: As violence in Iraq has worsened with attacks hitting a wider array of targets, security officials have held an unusual seminar for cafe owners — how to stop a suicide bomber.

From employing private security guards to reducing the number of open  entrances, officials gave tips on spotting and deterring militants, hoping to  curb the country’s worst wave of violence since 2008.
 
Shootings and bombings have struck all manner of targets in Baghdad and  elsewhere, but cafes — where football-mad Iraqis often gather to watch the  latest European games — have been badly hit.
 
Nearly 50 cafes have been bombed nationwide since unrest surged in April —  25 in Baghdad alone. The most recent — a suicide bombing in the southwestern  neighbourhood of Bayaa — killed 15 people on November 21.
 
“The security situation faced by cafes means they should appoint one or two  guards and close all but one entrance to control the flow of people and stop  terrorists who wear explosives belts and want to kill people in cold blood,”  said Major General Saad Jaafar, deputy chief of Baghdad’s security command  centre.
 
Jaafar also suggested that cafe proprietors instal security cameras.
 
“The security forces need help from Iraqi citizens,” he said, adding  quickly: “This does not mean the security forces are unable to protect the  citizens.”  
 
The violence has hit wide swathes of the population, from security forces  and government officials to civilians visiting cafes, mosques and football  pitches, with people killed at all times of day and night.
 
In all, more than 6,000 have been killed this year nationwide and nearly  950 in November alone, according to an AFP tally of reports from security and  medical officials.
 
Measures to tackle the bloodshed include essentially barring half of the  cars from Baghdad’s streets on any given day, to trumpeting operations against  militants that officials say have led to hundreds of arrests and the killing of  dozens more.
 
But the violence has not ceased, hurting trade for cafe owners whose  businesses are typically packed for matches ranging from Spain’s La Liga to  Britain’s Premier League, as well as the exploits of Iraq’s national team.
 
“Our work has fallen off a lot as a result of the terrorist attacks of  recent months,” said Mousa Mohammed, the owner of a cafe in Amil neighbourhood,  which itself suffered a twin bombing on October 20 that killed 40 people.
 
Mohammed attended the seminar and said he was unlikely to follow all of the  suggested measures.
 
“Appointing security guards at the entrance of the cafe and closing all the  doors except for one will mean people will be completely unwilling to visit our  cafes.
 
“They are the sources of our livelihoods,” Mohammed said.
 
Some owners, including Mohammed Mustafa whose cafe is in Bayaa where the  November 21 attack happened, took the advice to heart but also urged the  security forces to increase patrols, especially in areas frequented by large  numbers.
 
One suggestion from security officials was roundly rejected — that cafe  owners close at 8:00 pm to prevent increasingly frequent evening attacks that  have rocked the capital.
 
“After the terrorist attacks on cafes, the security forces in our  neighbourhood asked us to close, especially when Real Madrid is playing  Barcelona and the cafes are packed,” said Abdelaziz Youssif, whose cafe is in  the Jamiyah district.
 
He was referring to the fierce following that any clash between the Spanish  football rivals, known as the Clasico, engenders in Iraq.
 
“Is there any cafe in the world that closes its doors when Real Madrid and  Barcelona are playing?” Youssif asked incredulously. AFP

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