At least 93 killed in ISIL-claimed car bombings in Baghdad
BAGHDAD // At least 93 people were killed and 165 wounded in three separate ISIL-claimed car bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday.
In recent months, the extremist group has lost some of the Iraqi territory it conquered in its 2014 blitz. But Wednesday’s carnage demonstrates the group’s continued ability to launch significant attacks across the country and in the heart of the capital.
In the largest attack of the day, a car bomb ripped through a commercial area in the predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City on Wednesday morning, killing at least 63 people and wounding at least 85.
In the afternoon, two more car bombs killed at least 30 and wounded 80. One bomber targeted a police station in Baghdad’s north-west Kadhimiyah neighbourhood, killing 18 people – five of who were policemen – and wounding 34. Another bombing in the northern Baghdad neighbourhood of Jamiya killed 12 and wounded 46.
The Sadr City bomb struck a crowded outdoor market and officials said the death toll could rise further.
Officials claim the increase in assaults in Baghdad is an attempt by ISIL to distract from its battlefield losses elsewhere in Iraq.
The bombings also come at a time of political deadlock that has paralysed the work of the Iraqi government and parliament, adding to the country’s complex set of military, security, humanitarian, economic and human rights challenges.
The market struck in Sadr City is one of four main outdoor shopping venues in the sprawling slum that is home to about 2.5 million residents – almost half of Baghdad’s population of around 6 million. The open-air markets sell a range of goods, from food to household items, to clothes and other merchandise.
Ambulances rushed to the scene as dozens of residents walked through twisted and mangled wreckage of cars and other debris that littered the pavement, trying to help the victims. The street was stained red with blood in many places and the fronts of several buildings were heavily damaged. Smoke billowed from ground-level stores gutted by the explosion.
Karim Salih, a 45-year old grocer, said the bomb was in a pickup truck loaded with fruits and vegetables that was parked by a man who quickly disappeared among the crowds of people.
“It was such a thunderous explosion that jolted the ground,” he said. “The force of the explosion threw me for metres away and I lost consciousness for a few minutes.”
Mr Salih suffered no injuries, but two of his workers were wounded.
ISIL, which views Shiites as apostates, said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber – something that Iraqi officials denied.
The extremists claimed the attacks in online statements, saying the bombings targeted Shiite militiamen.
“Politicians are fighting each other in parliament and government while the people are being killed every day,” said Hussein Abdullah, a 28-year old owner of an electrical appliances store who suffered shrapnel wounds.
“If they can’t protect us, then they have to let us do the job,” the father of two added.
Baghdad’s Sadr City is a stronghold of supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr who have been holding protests and sit-ins for months to demand an overhaul of the political system put in place by the United States following the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Last month, hundreds of Mr Al Sadr’s supporters stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone in the heart of Baghdad and broke into the parliament building.
Delivering a speech before the United Nations Security Council on Friday, the UNs envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, warned that the country’s ongoing political crisis and chaos are only serving the interests of ISIL, and urged political leaders and civil society to work together to resolve the political turmoil.
The extremist group still controls significant areas in northern and western Iraq, including the country’s second-largest city, Mosul. Commercial and public places in Shiite-dominated neighbourhoods are among the most frequent targets for the Sunni militants who are seeking to undermine Iraqi government efforts to maintain security inside the capital.
In February, ISIL carried out devastating back-to-back market bombings in Sadr City, killing at least 73 people.
According to the United Nations, at least 741 Iraqis were killed in April due to ongoing violence. The UN mission to Iraq put the number of civilians killed at 410, while the rest were members of the security forces. A total of 1,374 Iraqis were wounded that month.
In March, at least 1,119 people were killed and 1,561 wounded in the ongoing violence.
* Associated Press
Updated: May 11, 2016 04:00 AM