25 Children Among The Dead: Report
As Iraqis gathered late on Saturday night in central Baghdad to eat, shop and just be together to celebrate one of the last evenings of the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, a huge bomb exploded and killed at least 126 people, the third mass slaughter of civilians in three countries carried out by the Islamic State in recent days. A CNN report said the dead included 25 children.
The attack, which occurred shortly after midnight in the middle-class neighbourhood of Karrada, a busy area of cafes, shops and hotels, was the deadliest single attack in Baghdad this year and was the first major assault in the capital since Iraqi forces retook Fallujah from the Islamic State late last month. Fallujah had been in the hands of the Islamic State for two-and-a-half years, longer than any other in Iraq or Syria, and many Iraqis had feared that after its liberation the Islamic State would strike back with more terror attacks in Baghdad.
The Sunni extremists of the IS almost immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying it had killed a gathering of Shia Muslims. But Karrada is a mixed area where Iraqis of all identities gather mainly to shop and eat.
In a second attack, an IED went off in Baghdad’s northern Shaab area, killing 5 and wounding 16, AP reported.
The bombing came just after the IS, took responsibility for an attack on a restaurant in Bangladesh that left 20 people dead, some of them hacked apart by swords and knives.And it followed by a few days the coordinated suicide attack on Istanbul’s main airport that killed more than 40 people, for which Turkish authorities blamed the IS, although the terrorist group itself did not claim responsibility .
By daybreak on Sunday in Baghdad, fires were still burning at the bombing site, while hospitals tended to the wounded, and mourners prepared for funerals. Some bodies were believed to be still buried in the rubble of a shopping mall. Along with the deaths, at least 140 people were injured. Baghdad Operations Command, which is in charge of security in the capi tal, was quick to announce that it had arrested a terrorist “cell“ in the city linked to the bombing.
Many of the victims were children -the explosion struck near a three-story complex of cafes and shops where families were celebrating a successful end of the school year, residents said -and on Sunday dozens of people were still unaccounted for. One man named Omar Adil said that his two broth ers, Ghaith and Mustafa, were missing. Five people from a single family in Sadr City, a large, poor Shia neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, were also missing.
The scenes were another brutal illustration of the paradox Iraq faces as its security forces, backed by American airstrikes, make gains against the IS: As more territory is won back, the group is reverting to its roots as a guerrilla insurgency , turning Baghdad once again into an urban killing field.
The bombing was an abrupt ending to the brief victory lap that Iraq’s beleaguered PM, Haider al-Abadi, was enjoying following the recapture of Fallujah. When he visited the bombing site on Sunday , people threw rocks and shoes -a particular insult in the Arab world -at his convoy and yelled “thief “, an epithet directed as much at Iraq’s dysfunctional and corrupt political class as it was to Abadi personally.
The anger swelling on Sunday perhaps presaged a resumption of street unrest in Baghdad that had calmed amid Ramadan and the military operations in Fallujah.