What may be one of the most unusual seminars in other places in the world is a need for Iraqi café owners. With worsening violence as attacks hit a broader range of targets, security officials have held an unusual seminar for cafe owners – how to stop a suicide bomber.
Officials gave tips on spotting and deterring militants that range anywhere from employing private security guards to reducing the number of open entrances. The class is being provided in hopes that the information will curb the country’s worst wave of violence since 2008.
Why café owners? While bombings have struck varying ranges of targets in Baghdad and elsewhere, cafes – where football-loving Iraqis often gather to watch the latest European games – have seen a rise in attacks.
The most recent attack, killing 15 people, occurred nearly two weeks ago in Bayaa. This was just one of the 50 cafes hit this year, twenty-five of those being located in Baghdad.
“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 center.
Another suggestion for café owners was the installation of 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.”
Death tolls are numbering over 6,000 in the region and nearly 950 in November alone, according to an AFP tally of reports from security and medical officials.
Some of the measures taken to decrease the bloodshed include barring half of the cars from Baghdad’s streets. Focused efforts have been made to dismantle operations against militants that officials claim have led to hundreds of arrests and the killing of dozens more.
For café owners however, violence has not decreased. This hurts business for cafe owners whose cafes are usually packed for matches ranging from Spain’s La Liga to Britain’s Premier League, not to mention all the energy focused on Iraq’s national team.
“Our work has fallen off a lot as a result of the terrorist attacks of recent months,” said Mousa Mohammad, the owner of a cafe in Amil neighborhood, which itself suffered a twin bombing on Oct. 20 that killed 40 people.
Even though information is being provided, some owners say they will not 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,” Mohammad said.
While some owners, including Mohammad Mustafa whose cafe is in Bayaa where the Nov. 21 attack happened, took the advice to heart, they also urged the security forces to increase patrols, especially in areas frequented by large crowds.
Overwhelmingly rejected was the idea that cafes close early in the evenings to prevent night attacks.
“After the terrorist attacks on cafes, the security forces in our neighborhood asked us to close, especially when Real Madrid is playing Barcelona and the cafes are packed,” said Abdel-Aziz Youssif, whose cafe is in the Jamiyah district.
“Is there any cafe in the world that closes its doors when Real Madrid and Barcelona are playing?!” Youssif asked.
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