x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

More than 70 killed in bombings at Baghdad funeral

More than 120 injured as two bombers set off explosives near mourners' tents in Sadr City.

BAGHDAD // Two suicide bombers, one in an explosives-laden car and the other on foot, hit a cluster of funeral tents packed with mourning families in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, the deadliest in a string of attacks around Iraq that killed at least 92 people on Saturday.

The assaults, the latest in a months-long surge of violence that has killed thousands of Iraqis, are a chilling reminder of insurgents’ determination to reignite sectarian conflict more than a decade after the US-led invasion.

The attack on the funeral was one of the largest single terrorist assaults on civilians in Iraq in recent years. It happened shortly before sunset in the densely populated Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City in north-eastern Baghdad.

Police said at least 72 people were killed and more than 120 were wounded in the attack. One bomber was able to drive up near the tent before detonating his deadly payload, and another on foot blew himself up nearby, police said.

The explosions set the tents and several cars on fire, sending a towering plume of thick black smoke over the city.

“I saw several charred bodies on the ground and tents on fire and also burning cars. Wounded people were screaming in pain,” said Sheik Sattar Al Fartousi, one of the mourners. “The scene was horrible. The funeral turned into an inferno.”

He said the first blast went off as dinner was being served in one of several tents set up for the funeral of a member of the Al Fartousi tribe. He estimated that more than 500 people were attending the event.

Civilian pickup trucks loaded with casualties and ambulances with sirens blaring were seen racing from the scene.

Less than two hours after the funeral attack, another car bomb blast struck a commercial street in the nearby Ur neighborhood, killing nine people and wounding 14, according to police.

Insurgents earlier launched a suicide attack on a police headquarters in the city of Beiji, killing seven policemen and wounding 21 others.

In that attack, police said four suicide bombers stormed a base for police commandos. Guards managed to kill one suicide bomber, but the three other bombers were able to set off their explosive belts inside the compound, police said. Beiji, a centre for oil refining, is 250 kilometres north of Baghdad.

The police said that most of the members of the commando unit were not in the compound at the time of the attack because they were carrying out a security operation outside the city.

In other violence, gunmen killed two prison guards after storming their houses in a village near the city of Mosul early on Saturday. Also in Mosul, two soldiers were killed and four others were wounded when a roadside bomb struck their convoy. Mosul, 360km north-west of Baghdad, is a former militant stronghold.

* Associated Press