BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 18 - The rooms of the dead are mostly empty now. Their meager belongings are all that remain: A small pile of pickles wrapped in plastic. A bag of salt. Pairs of old shoes. Work shirts and towels draped on a coat rack in the corner.
The items, left in a hostel in Baghdad's Kadhimiya neighborhood, belonged to poor Shiite day laborers who were killed Wednesday in a suicide bombing. The attacker lured them to his van with promises of work, then blew himself up, killing 114 people. It was this city's deadliest bombing since the American invasion and, it seemed to many, one of the cruelest.
That attack, and a string of others that have followed, all aimed at Shiites, have brought new vulnerability and dysfunction to the streets of Baghdad, the capital. For days, three of the four main roads leading in and out of Kadhimiya have been closed. Neighborhoods have been unusually quiet, as Shiites stay home, afraid to venture out. The violence has also reinforced a new reality of the war here: That Shiites are now paying the highest price in blood of any group in Iraq.
"Americans are not attacked anymore, it's the Shiites who suffer from these bombings," said a 40-year-old owner of a cigarette shop in front of the bombing site, who gave only his nickname, Abu Ali. "It is increasing now. Sometimes several in one day."
American service members clearly are still a major target of insurgent attacks, with deaths reported every week, and the overall toll in the war nearing 2,000. But in recent months, insurgents have pointedly shifted their focus toward killing Shiite civilians, with the number of attacks on mosques, markets and populated areas rising sharply since the spring. The threat of further massacres was sharpened last week when the architect of much of the killing, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared a "full-scale war on Shiites all over Iraq, wherever and whenever they are found."
If the country has not yet slid into open civil war, it is mainly because the vast majority of Shiites have refused to be drawn into the killing. Adhering to the commands of their religious leaders in Najaf, they speak of the bombing in Kadhimiya as the latest tragedy in the long tale of suffering that dates to the founding of Shiism in the 7th century.
But as the insurgency grows ever more deadly, the question is whether that historic tolerance for suffering will hold.
In Kadhimiya, the answer, at least so far, seemed to be yes.
"It is God's will," said Ali Hussein, a 38-year-old laborer from Nasiriya, who lives in the hostel, called Haji Awda. "Since ancient times it has been this way. It is our fate."
The blast has torn apart Mr. Hussein's family. His brother-in-law, with whom he shared a room, has been missing since the bombing. Mr. Hussein has not been able to bring himself to call his sister, hoping first to find news of her husband, whom she married just two months ago. Since Wednesday, Mr. Hussein has searched 12 hospitals in Baghdad without success.
Still, the tiny room they once shared was filled not with outrage but with a quiet acceptance and sadness at the loss. Mr. Hussein laid his brother-in-law's few belongings - a frayed shirt, flowing cotton pants, and a dishdasha, or traditional gown - on his cot to show a visitor.
"As Shiites, we say that we Iraqis are all one hand - Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians."
Still, the unrelenting attacks have deepened the sense of anguish among Shiites, who say the fear of more massacres has seeped into all parts of their lives. Nowhere does that appear more strongly than in Kadhimiya, where black banners bearing the names of some of the dead flutter like flags from building facades, workers are still shoveling piles of rubble from the blast and most windows lack glass.
The streets around the Kadhimiya bomb site, though somber, hummed Sunday with quiet repairs. Shop owners stood among piles of rubble and surveyed damage to the sounds of sweeping and hammering. Mussa Awda, one of three brothers who run the hostel, pointed to where plywood had been nailed to replace a roof that had collapsed in the blast. "We have enough patience," Mr. Awda said. "And thank God for that."
In more than a dozen interviews this weekend, the desire to seek revenge never came up.
"If I chose to fight," said Dhafer Amer, 23, who works in his father's rug shop not far from where the bomb went off in Kadhimiya, "it would only make things worse."
Still, there are signs that the ageless Shiite tolerance may already be wearing thin. Some Shiites have begun accusing the government - dominated by Shiite religious parties - of failing to act decisively enough against those who carry out the attacks.
"Our patience shows that we are much stronger than them," said Abbas Swadi, who works in a Kadhimiya tea house. "But we're fighting with our patience."
Many Shiites also complained that Sunni Arab leaders have not spoken out forcefully enough against the bombings. Shortly after the attacks on Wednesday, Iraq's most prominent hard-line Sunni clerical group, the Muslim Scholars Association, responded to Mr. Zarqawi's declaration of war with a mild public statement that "advised" him to desist. The remark did not go unnoticed in the Shiite neighborhoods that bore the brunt of Wednesday's pain.
"How dare they say it so weakly," said Falah Jiad, an ice cream shop worker in Shula, another Shiite area in Baghdad that was bombed on Wednesday. "It makes us think that they accept Zarqawi's attacks on us."
Sunnis are also being killed, and clerics have blamed the assassination-style hits on Shiite militias. The clerics never fail to point out their own pain, even in the fact of much greater losses among Shiites. Losses among Shiites are generally greater, and some Shiites have expressed frustration that the imbalance is rarely acknowledged.
The victims are often this city's poorest in a country where unemployment is at least 30 percent. Mr. Swadi, 25, who is from Nasiriya and lost several friends in the blast, supports his wife and children by working several jobs, including in a tea shop for $4.79 a day. He sleeps on the shop floor. Other laborers pay about 60 cents for a night on a cot in hostels like Mr. Awda's.
Kadhimiya has seen violence before; it was near here that almost 1,000 Shiite pilgrims were killed in a stampede three weeks ago that was set off by fears of a suicide bomber. Even so, the sheer scale of the suffering in Wednesday's attack was staggering.
Karim al-Azawi was on his way to open his breakfast shop on the morning of the blast. He ran to help people, but found himself collecting parts of bodies - legs, arms, even a torso - instead of whole bodies, and stacking them in a pile. Later, when he went to survey the damage from the roof of his building, he found a human back, sheared of bone, lying flat on the dusty concrete.
A long, dark oily smudge was all that remained Sunday of the horrifying sight.
But nothing, it seemed, could dampen Shiite resilience. On Sunday evening, crowds of Shiite pilgrims from southern and central Iraq poured into the holy Shiite city of Karbala for the Shiite holiday of Shabaniya, a celebration of the birth of the 12th Shiite imam.
In Baghdad, about 60 miles north, Mr. Hussein pondered making the trip. When asked how he would get there, he replied without hesitation, "By walking on my feet."