Baghdad, Nov. 24 (Reuters): Since guerrillas used donkeys to outwit the high-tech defences of the US military in Iraq, the life of the beast of burden has never been so miserable.
Attackers used donkey carts to launch Katyusha rockets at the oil ministry and two fortified Baghdad hotels on Friday. Two other donkey carts were stopped — one carrying more rockets, the other a donkey-bomb wired up with explosives. Every donkey in Baghdad is suddenly under suspicion as US President George W. Bush wages a global war on terror.
In a crackdown on an animal that already suffers multiple daily whippings, US soldiers with automatic rifles regularly stop and search donkey carts for weapons. Donkey owners say petrol stations have been refusing to sell them kerosene for resale since the rocket attacks. The animals salivate and wheeze with exhaustion as they pull their owners and heavy loads across the potholed streets of the Iraqi capital in a desperate search for kerosene.
“I have five daughters to feed. I used to make 7,000 dinars ($3.50) a day. Now I earn only 2,000 since the Americans started pressuring us after the rocket attacks,” said Jabar Mahdi.
“We ask the petrol station managers for kerosene and they refuse. What did we do to get treated like this'”
Even before the rocket attacks, donkey cart drivers were some of the least respected people in Iraq, living on the fringes of society in teeming slums.
Some fear Iraqis will now look down on them even more as they navigate their battered, bloodstained donkeys through chaotic traffic.
“When they see us ride by they call us terrorists. They accuse us of being Saddam’s guerrillas and causing all the security problems in Iraq,” said Hikmat Sabeeh, 30.
The attacks could not have come at a worse time for donkey cart owners, who can barely afford to buy newspapers to read about the rockets and bombs that have shaken Baghdad. US troops are pounding the country in major operations designed to root out guerrillas who have killed 185 of their comrades.