Two car bomb blasts are reported to have rocked the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, just hours after an attack on a market left 64 people dead.
Police sources told the Reuters news agency that at least 15 people had been killed in the northern Kadhimiya area and seven others in the city’s west.
A car bomb was also used in the earlier attack at the crowded market in the mainly Shia district of Sadr City. The Sunni jihadist group Islamic State (IS) claimed it was responsible.
IS, which controls swathes of northern and western Iraq, has frequently targeted Shia, whom it considers heretics. Many of the victims in the Sadr City attack were children and women, including brides who appeared to be getting ready for their weddings at a beauty salon, Iraqi police and medical sources said. Pictures showed vehicles and the facades of several buildings heavily damaged.
An eyewitness told the Associated Press that the bomb was in a pickup truck loaded with fruit and vegetables. Its driver parked the vehicle and quickly disappeared among the crowd, he said. “It was such a thunderous explosion that jolted the ground,” Karim Salih, 45, told the news agency. “The force of the explosion threw me for metres and I lost consciousness for a few minutes.” Another witness told the Reuters news agency that many of those killed were poor people, only earning between 5,000-10,00 dinars ($5-$10) a day.
In the aftermath of the bombing, angry survivors blamed the politicians for failing to protect them and ensure security, reports the BBC’s Jim Muir in northern Iraq. The bombing comes in the midst of an acute political crisis in Baghdad, with parliament unable to meet and the government effectively paralysed by factional disputes, he notes.
IS has frequently targeted commercial areas and government and security personnel, causing heavy casualties. Iraqi forces, backed by US-led coalition air strikes and Shia-dominated paramilitary forces, have regained some territory seized by IS in 2014, but have been unable to prevent bomb attacks in the capital.
In February, Iraqi security forces began building a wall around Baghdad in an attempt to halt the group’s attacks. The UN says 1,885 civilians were killed by violence in Iraq in the first four months of this year.
Recent IS Deadly Bombings
- March 2016: Suicide attack in a football match in the city of Iskandariya, in central Iraq, kills at least 32 people. Many of the dead were young boys who had been in a trophy ceremony.
March 2016: Fuel tanker is blown up at a checkpoint near Hilla, south of Baghdad, killing at least 47.
February 2016: Twin suicide bomb attack in a busy market in Sadr City kills at least 70.
August 2015: Truck bomb explodes at crowded market in Sadr City killing at least 67.
July 2015: Car bomb hits a busy market in the town of Khan Bani Saad killing 120.
Why Does IS Target Shia?
The group considers Shia to be irredeemable apostates subject to punishment by death. Powerful Shia militias, which IS said it had targeted in Wednesday’s attack, have also played a vital role in helping Iraqi government forces drive militants out of areas they captured in mid-2014.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has in the past said the bombings in the capital are “desperate” attempts by IS militants to retaliate for the territorial losses, and analysts say they may increase in frequency as government forces advance on the northern city of Mosul.
Vehicle scanners at the entrances to Baghdad have helped reduce the number of co-ordinated car bomb attacks since late 2014. But IS has changed tactics in response, and instead used suicide bombers and bombs planted in public spaces. The security establishment is also plagued by corruption, and officers are allegedly easy to bribe. Expenditure on security has also reportedly been reduced, with the government’s finances strained by the cost of the war against IS and declining oil revenue.
The authorities have also struggled to secure rural areas ringing the capital – the so-called “Baghdad belt” – where militants are known to shelter. Local Sunnis, many of whom have suffered abuses at the hands of the Shia-dominated security forces or were alienated by the sectarian policies of Mr Abadi’s predecessor, have been accused of aiding IS.