Bomb attacks kill scores in central Baghdad

 

Baghdad Blast

Baghdad Blast

At least 120 people were killed in two separate bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital Sunday morning, Iraqi officials said.

In the deadliest attack a car bomb hit Karada, a busy shopping district in the centre of Baghdad, killing at least 115 people and wounding near 200, according to police and hospital officials.

The bomb struck as families and young people were out on the streets after breaking their Ramadan fast.

The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online, saying they had deliberately targeted Shiite Muslims. The statement could not be independently verified.

French President François Hollande condemned the attacks, called them “the work of despicable criminals”.

At dawn on Sunday, fire fighters were still working to extinguish the blazes and bodies were still being recovered from charred buildings. Many of the dead were children, according to Associated Press reporters at the scene. Ambulances could be heard rushing to the site for hours after the blast. An eyewitness said the explosion caused fires at nearby clothing and cellphone shops.

Hours after the bombing, Iraq’s prime minister visited the blast site. Video footage uploaded to social media showed an angry crowd, with people calling Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi a “thief” and shouting at his convoy.

In the second attack, an improvised explosive device went off in eastern Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 16. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The casualty figures were confirmed by police and hospital officials, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorised to release information to the press.

The Baghdad attacks come just over a week after Iraqi forces declared the city of Fallujah “fully liberated” from the IS group. Over the past year, Iraqi forces have racked up territorial gains against the IS group, retaking the city of Ramadi and the towns of Hit and Rutba, all in Iraq’s vast Anbar province west of Baghdad.

Despite the government’s battlefield victories, the IS group has repeatedly shown it remains capable of launching attacks far from the front lines.

Before the launch of the operation to retake Fallujah, Iraq’s prime minister was facing growing social unrest and anti-government protests in Baghdad sparked in part by popular anger at the lack of security in the capital. In one month, Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone – which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions – was stormed twice by anti-government protesters.

The IS group still controls Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul as well as significant patches of territory in the country’s north and west.

At the height of the extremist group’s power in 2014, the IS group rendered nearly a third of the country out of government control. Now, the militants are estimated to control only 14 percent of Iraqi territory, according to the PM’s office.