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Celebratory Gunfire Injures 46

From a Times Staff Writer

Many Iraqis set aside sectarian hatred and united in jubilation this weekend after their national soccer team defeated Syria on penalty kicks to win the gold medal in the West Asian Games.

But even that triumph ended in bloodshed.

Five Baghdad hospitals treated 46 people wounded by celebratory gunfire after Saturday night’s televised match in Qatar, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

Thousands of rounds from Kalashnikov rifles and pistols rattled the capital for more than half an hour as tracer bullets streaked the night sky red. Some residents of the Iraqi capital, unaware of the soccer victory, thought they were in the middle of a gunfight.

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Gunfire is a popular means of celebrating at weddings and other joyous occasions in this heavily armed society.

Saturday night’s shooting occurred as government officials were preparing nervously for a parliamentary election Thursday after a political campaign waged amid a lethal insurgency and sectarian violence.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr used a news conference on election day security measures Sunday to chide his compatriots for shooting into the air, noting that what goes up must come down.

“We do not want to ruin the happiness of the Iraqis because yesterday they were celebrating,” he said. “But they were not celebrating in an appropriate manner.”


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