ISIL campaign reaches Baghdad with double car bombing
BAGHDAD // ISIL’s offensive in Syria and Iraq hit Baghdad on Thursday as a wave of attacks in mainly Shiite areas in and near the Iraqi capital killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens.
ISIL claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack: a double car bombing in the capital’s Dolaie neighbourhood that killed 14 civilians and wounding 34 others, police said.
The group has overrun vast areas in western and northern Iraq as well as parts of Syria, where Kurdish fighters on Thursday called for better weapons from the international community to hold off ISIL for control of Kobani.
ISIL has said one of its goals is to destabilise and eventually take over Baghdad.
Residents in Dolaie threw stones at police checkpoints and police cars that arrived to respond to the blasts, prompting police to withdraw from the area.
Iraqi officials have tried to reassure residents that the capital is too well-protected for militants to capture, even as they struggle to stop frequent near daily deadly attacks.
ISIL said the Dolaie attack targeted Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militiamen allied with them.
In the eastern neighbourhood of Talibiyah, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police checkpoint, killing at least 12 people, police said.
The dead in that attack included seven policemen and five civilians. At least 28 other people were wounded.
Six other civilians were killed and 16 wounded in another car bomb explosion on a commercial street in the northern Hurriyah district.
And in the northern Shula neighbourhood, six civilians were killed and 18 wounded when mortar rounds rained down on a residential area, police added.
ISIL fighters say they have a foothold inside Baghdad. They have claimed several large-scale bombings in the city recently, particularly in Shiite districts.
Shortly before sunset, police said a car bomb explosion at the Shiite part of Mahmoudiya town killed seven people and wounded 12 others. Mahmoudiya is 30 kilometres south of Baghdad. A roadside bomb also hit an army patrol just south of Baghdad, killing two soldiers and wounding four others.
Yet another bomb exploded near shops in downtown Baghdad, killing three people and wounding four others.
Thursday’s explosions, over a span of two hours, have brought the death toll from attacks since Sunday to at least 162 people, mostly in Baghdad.
In Syria, Kurdish fighters backed by a flurry of US-led airstrikes were holding out against ISIL fighters in Kobani.
The Kurds claimed to have pushed ISIL back in parts of the town on the border with Turkey, but the Pentagon warned the multinational strikes may not prevent the town’s fall.
Mortar and heavy machine-gun fire rang out later as ISIL appeared to have relaunched its bid to cut the town off from the Turkish border.
Despite intensified strikes on Kobani this week by the United States and its Arab allies, the Kurds called for increased firepower in the battle for the strategic town.
“We need more airstrikes, as well as weaponry and ammunition to fight them on the ground,” said Idris Nassen, a Kurdish official in Kobani.
An estimated 200,000 mainly Kurdish Syrians have fled the ISIL onslaught for Turkey.
A grocer who had escaped to Turkey from Kobani offered insight into those fighting for ISIL, saying that one they had captured, an Azerbaijani in his 20s, had even asked to be killed.
“He begged us to kill him so he could go to paradise and be rewarded,” said Cuneyt Hemo, adding that the militant was held for a day and ultimately shot dead by his captors.
ISIL also battling to control other parts of Syria, including Hasakeh province, where Kurdish fighters killed 20 militants on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Kurdish forces have suffered heavy losses since ISIL launched its offensive on the Kurdish enclave around Kobani in mid-September, but so has ISIL.
As of Wednesday, fighting on the ground had killed 662 people since September 16, including 20 civilians, the Observatory said.
ISIL lost 374 of its militants, while 268 people have been killed fighting on the Kurdish side.
In its latest update, US Central Command said American planes struck 14 times near Kobani on Wednesday and Thursday, including “successful” raids on 19 ISIL-held buildings and two command posts.
American-led forces have now carried out more than 100 airstrikes near Kobani since September 27.
* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Updated: October 16, 2014 04:00 AM