Ramadan violence is less than in past

Ahmed Qassim spent Monday mopping up blood and sweeping broken glass from his clothing shop in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood. It wasn't how he'd hoped to mark the close of Ramadan, Islam's holy month.

“Is this eidia for us?” asked Qassim, referring to the gifts that Muslims give each other to celebrate Ramadan's end. His store sits about 150 feet from the site where at least 19 people died in a double bomb attack Sunday.

“For me myself, I lost four friends,” he said.

Every year since the U.S.-led invasion, violence has spiked across Iraq during Ramadan, the ninth month of lunar calendar, when the Quran is said to have been revealed to Prophet Muhammad. Muslims celebrate Ramadan, which ends this week, by fasting from dawn to dusk, asking forgiveness for their sins and doing good deeds. They break the fast with iftar, an evening meal.

Security across Iraq is better than it's been in years, and this Ramadan brought a much smaller upswing in violence than previous ones did. But in recent weeks, the number of roadside bomb attacks is increasing; so are assassinations.

Dumped bodies are once again appearing along Baghdad's streets. Two years ago, Iraqi police recovered an average of 50 bodies a day across the capital, most of them shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs. By this summer, the bodies had all but disappeared. This month, though, they began to show up again, usually one or two a day.

According to a McClatchy Newspapers count, 179 civilians, soldiers and police officers were killed across Baghdad during Ramadan last year, compared with 97 so far this Ramadan. The deadliest attacks on civilians this Ramadan came Sunday night, when four bombings in Baghdad killed at least 32 people.

It's not clear whether the changes will go away once the holiday ends, or whether they're signs that political frustrations are beginning to erode Iraq's hard-won security gains.

As the holy month comes to a close, Iraqis are hoping for the former.

“It's been so much better this year,” Hussam Abdul Hammed said Monday as he left a local food market and headed home to prepare iftar. “I feel like there is so much more to celebrate this time.”