Monday, July 04, 2016
Iraqis evacuate a body from the site of a suicide car bombing believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State on July 3, 2016 in Baghdad's central Karrada district. PHOTO | AFP
A suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State group ripped through a busy Baghdad shopping district on Sunday, killing at least 119 people in the deadliest attack this year in Iraq’s capital.
The blast hit the Karrada district early in the day as the area was packed with shoppers ahead of this week’s holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
It came a week after Iraqi security forces recaptured Fallujah from IS, leaving Mosul as the only Iraqi city under the jihadist group’s control.
The bombing also wounded more than 140 people, security officials said.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the site of the attack and vowed “punishment” for its perpetrators, his office said.
The blast set buildings ablaze, and firemen were still working to extinguish them some 12 hours later.
Men carried the bodies of two victims out of one burned building and a crowd of people looked on from the rubble-filled street as firefighters worked at the site.
Hussein Ali, a 24-year-old former soldier, said six workers at his family’s shop were killed in the attack, their bodies burned so badly that they could not be identified.
“I will return to the battlefront. At least there, I know the enemy so I can fight him. But here, I don’t know who I’m fighting,” Ali told AFP.
IS issued a statement claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing, saying it was carried out by an Iraqi as part of the group’s “ongoing security operations”.
The jihadist group said the blast targeted members of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, whom the Sunni extremists consider heretics and frequently attack in Baghdad and elsewhere.
UN Iraq envoy Jan Kubich condemned the “cowardly and heinous act of unparalleled proportions,” calling on authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
Officials said another explosion in the Shaab area of northern Baghdad killed at least one person and wounded four on Sunday, but the cause of the blast was disputed.
US National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said the attacks “only strengthen our resolve to support Iraqi security forces as they continue to take back territory” from IS.
Bombings in the capital have decreased since IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in June 2014, with the jihadists apparently occupied with operations elsewhere.
But the group has struck back against Iraqi civilians after suffering military setbacks.
A video posted on social media showed men — apparently angry at the government’s failure to prevent the carnage in Karrada — throwing rocks towards what was said to be Abadi’s convoy.