Followers of an ancient faith are caught in Iraq's fault lines





QAHTANIYA, Iraq: When an American platoon rolled into this dusty town in the country's northwest corner, a few miles from the Syrian border, the soldiers were greeted by dozens of people holding out pink and yellow Post-it notes. The notes appeared so quickly it seemed that people must have been carrying them at all times, just in case. On each was a name, written carefully in the Roman alphabet, and each came with a question: Can you tell me where this person is?

On the evening of Aug. 14, 2007, four truck bombs exploded here and in the nearby towns of Jazeera and Azair, killing 313 people and wounding 704, local officials said. Nearly 400 houses were destroyed in the attack, the largest coordinated bombing of the Iraq war. The explosions were so huge that dozens of those closest to the bombs vanished without a trace, leaving their relatives to wonder, more than a year later, where they could have gone.

"We just want to know if they're alive or dead," said Ismail Zandin Jindo, 70, who was holding out two wrinkled birth certificates.

The people here are Yazidis, adherents of an ancient religion with roots in Zoroastrianism. Iraqi and American officials pinned responsibility for the bombings on Sunni Arab extremists, who consider the Yazidis devil worshipers.


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