ISTANBUL -- An Iraqi police officer saved the lives of numerous civilians on Wednesday when he threw himself on a suicide bomber in the country's northeast, Agence France-Presse reported.
The officer, identified by AFP as Ayyub Khalaf, 34, was the father of two children.
Five people were killed in the attack and 10 others wounded. The bomber reportedly targeted a crowd of pilgrims in the town of Khales, outside of Baghdad. This account could not be independently verified by The Huffington Post.
Reports from the scene indicated that Khalaf grabbed the bomber in a bear hug to shield others from the blast. His sacrifice reportedly prevented the deaths of many more people.
"Ayyub was martyred while defending pilgrims," a friend of the officer told AFP. "His name will be an eternal symbol because he saved the lives of dozens of innocents."
The heroic actions come amid a frenzy of suicide bombings and other violent attacks that have pushed Iraq to the edge of desperation. More than 8,000 people have been killed in violence this year, making 2013 the deadliest year since 2008, by some counts -- before the withdrawal of American troops.
On Tuesday, The Huffington Post published an infographic documenting every bombing attack during an 8-month span of 2013, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,700 people.
"For most Americans, Iraq disappeared from sight and mind once the last U.S. combat troops left two years ago this month," wrote Huffington Post editorial director Howard Fineman, in a column accompanying the visualization.
The Gallup Poll has stopped regularly asking about it. President Barack Obama rarely speaks of it. The visit last month of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki caused barely a ripple in the current of cable news.
Yet in some ways, Iraq is more important than ever. If it falls apart -- if it becomes the al-Qaeda global base it never was before (Dick Cheney’s dark fantasies of 2002 notwithstanding) -- the result could dash hopes for a semblance of peace and stability in an oil-rich region stretching from Turkey to the Arabian Sea.
We aren’t stuck in Iraq anymore. But we are stuck with Iraq.
News reporters covering the violence in Iraq often say that the level and frequency of such brutality has made it difficult to report the stories. Prashant Rao, the Baghdad bureau chief for AFP told HuffPost that days in which 40 or 50 people are killed have become so common that they typically do not merit more than a simple wire report.