The word Baghdad used to conjure up exotic images, from ancient relics to magic carpets. Today, Iraq is a nation struggling to rebuild both its infrastructure and government after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led coalition forces in spring 2003.

Hussein's regime, which had been accused of supporting terrorist groups and developing weapons of mass destruction, has been destroyed, and Hussein himself was finally captured by U.S. troops in December 2003. But the country remains dangerous. There are daily reports of terrorist attacks on Shia mosques, Iraqi security forces and government members, all of which frequently harm or kill civilians, as well. Insurgent groups have also targeted foreigners for kidnapping, cutting off the captives' heads to back up their demands for money or political concessions. Electricity, food, fuel, water and medicine are sometimes in short supply. Though the Iraqi government, legitimized by parliamentary elections in 2005, 2010 and 2014, is nominally in charge, there are large areas with no military or formal governmental control. A great deal of violence, including bombings of hotels and roadways, has occurred.

Prior to a series of recent wars (with Iran, the Gulf War and the latest military action), Iraq was one of the most developed countries in the region, blessed with a rich assortment of archaeological treasures. It has always had a fascinating blend of cultures: 60% of the population are Shiite Muslim Arabs, about 25% are Sunni Muslim Arabs, and the rest are Kurds and other groups. Baghdad was once home to one of the world's oldest Jewish communities, and Christians and Druze communities can still be found there. Today this diverse population is struggling to get back on its feet.

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