Middle East

DAESH claims responsibility for Baghdad car bombing that killed over 131

At least 131 killed in two separate attacks on Iraqi capital, say officials.

At least 131 people have been killed and 200 wounded in two separate bomb attacks in Baghdad, Iraqi officials have said.

In the deadliest attack, a car bomb hit Karada, a busy shopping district in the centre of the Iraqi capital, killing 86 people and wounding 160, according to police and hospital officials. The explosion was the most lethal single attack in Baghdad this year.

It struck as families and young people were out on the streets after breaking their daylight fast for the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday morning.

DAESH (Islamic State) claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online, saying it had deliberately targeted Shia Muslims. The jihadist group considers Iraq’s Shia Muslim majority to be heretics and frequently targets them in attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere. The statement could not be independently verified. In May, the capital was rocked by a series of blasts that killed more than 150 people in seven days.

Firefighters were still working to extinguish the blazes and bodies were still being recovered from charred buildings at dawn on Sunday. Many of the dead were children, according to reporters at the scene. Ambulances could be heard rushing to the site for hours after the blast. A witness said the explosion caused fires at nearby clothing and cellphone shops.

Men carried the bodies of two victims out of one burned building and a crowd looked on from the rubble-filled street as firefighters worked at the site.

DAESH issued a statement claiming the suicide car bombing, saying it was carried out by an Iraqi as part of the group’s “ongoing security operations”.

Hours after the bombing, Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, visited the blast site. Video footage uploaded to social media showed an angry crowd, with people calling Abadi a “thief” and shouting at his convoy.

In the second attack, an improvised explosive device went off in eastern Baghdad. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The casualty figures were confirmed by police and hospital officials, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorised to release information to the press.

The Baghdad attacks come just over a week after Iraqi forces declared the city of Falluja “fully liberated” from DAESH. Over the past year, Iraqi forces have racked up territorial gains against DAESH, retaking the city of Ramadi and the towns of Hit and Rutba, all in Iraq’s vast Anbar province west of Baghdad.

Despite the government’s battlefield victories, DAESH has repeatedly shown it remains capable of launching attacks far from the front lines.

Before the launch of the operation to retake Falluja, Iraq’s prime minister was facing growing social unrest and anti-government protests in Baghdad sparked in part by popular anger at the lack of security in the capital. In one month, Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions, was stormed twice by anti-government protesters.

DAESH still controls Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, as well as significant patches of territory in the country’s north and west.

At the height of the extremist group’s power in 2014, DAESH put nearly a third of the country out of government control. Now, the militants are estimated to control only 14% of Iraqi territory, according to the office of the prime minister.

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