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Jubilant, Deadly Celebrations Follow Iraq Victory

Iraq needs no introduction as a nation in turmoil, but the exploits of its soccer team once again managed to lift the spirits -- however briefly -- of the war-torn nation. On Wednesday the Iraqis defeated South Korea, 4-3, on penalties in the Asian Cup semifinal; they will meet Saudi Arabia, which won, 3-2, against Japan, in the final.

After the final penalty was converted, thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets across the nation's cities. The New York Times' Richard A. Oppell, on hand to witness the celebrations, described the events as follows: "It was more rapture than celebration, a singular release of the sort of emotion that has fueled so much rage and fear and paranoia. But this evening, at least at first, it seemed diverted into nonstop car-horn bliss; spontaneous parades clogged streets from Erbil to Karbala, from Basra to Mosul, from Ramadi to Baghdad."

However, not long after the celebrations began, insurgents sensed an opportunity, unleashing two suicide car bombs through the cheering crowds in the eastern and western sides of Baghdad. The bombs killed 50 people and wounded 135 more. Nevertheless, says Oppell, "spontaneous, unifying elation," covered most of the country, broadcast by the nation's largest networks for hours. As one news anchor put it: "The Iraqi players with this win have done what the Iraqi politicians have failed to do all these years for national unity."

Read the whole story at New York Times »

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