x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Al Qa'eda linked group claims Baghdad attacks

An al Qa'eda-linked group said it carried out double car bombings in Baghdad that killed at least 155 people on Sunday.

BAGHDAD // Al Qa'eda's umbrella group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the double car bombings in Baghdad that killed at least 155 people on Sunday. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, says in a statement posted on the internet that its "martyrs ... targeted the dens of infidelity." It employed language often used by Sunni Arab militants to describe the Shi'ite Muslim majority that has dominated the Iraqi government since the US-led invasion of 2003. "Among the chosen targets were the ministry of oppression known as the ministry of justice and the Baghdad provincial assembly ... The enemies only understand the language of force," said the statement. The authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified. The same group has said it was behind attacks near government ministries in Baghdad that killed more than 100 people in August. Officials have said two mini-buses were used in Sunday's attacks, circumventing a ban on truck traffic in heavily policed central Baghdad. Both were driven by suicide bombers from a nearby site, according to aerial images from US-operated airships that hover over the city. The January ballot is expected to focus on security gains under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after years of war and sticky questions about the distribution of power and oil wealth. Insurgents are widely expected to try and upset an electoral process that is meant to prepare the way for an ordered withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq.

Three major government buildings were destroyed or severely damaged in Sunday's blasts. The dead included two dozen children trapped in a bus leaving a day care centre. * Agencies