Image: Iraq market
Hadi Mizban  /  AP
Iraqis dance during a reopening of the Mutanabi market in Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday.
updated 12/19/2008 12:43:38 PM ET 2008-12-19T17:43:38

Iraqis danced and played traditional music in celebration as Baghdad's renowned Mutanabi book market formally reopened Thursday more than 18 months after a huge truck bombing devastated the center of Iraqi intellectual life.

The ceremony for the book market, named after a 10th century Baghdad poet, marks another step in the return to normalcy in Baghdad after years of horrific violence.

For years, the Mutanabi market remained a favorite hangout for intellectuals, artists and students — a cultural wellspring deftly adapting to each change of fortune.

On March 5, 2007, however, a car bomb blamed on al-Qaida militants ripped the market apart, killing at least 38 people and wounding more than 100.

The bombing wiped out dozens of bookstores, stationery shops and presses. The stench of burned paper and human flesh hung in the air for days.

Authorities banned vehicular traffic from Mutanabi Street, put up blast barriers and checkpoints, and sent in U.S. troops in an effort to calm the panicked traders and assure them of reconstruction funds.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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