Over 120 people were killed on Sunday in two bombings in the Iraqi capital, including a large-scale attack claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 86 people among them 15 children in a central shopping district, officials said.
The bombings demonstrated the extremists’ ability to mount significant attacks despite major battlefield losses, including the city of Fallujah, which was declared “fully liberated” from IS just over a week ago.
The deadliest attack took place in the central Karada district of Baghdad, where a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laded pickup truck outside a crowded shopping center, killing at least 86 people and wounding up to 170 others, according to a police officer. He said the dead included 15 children, 10 women and six policemen.
The suicide bomber struck shortly after midnight, when families and young people were out on the streets after breaking their daylight fast for the holy month of Ramadan.
Most of the victims were inside a multi-story shopping and amusement mall, where dozens burned to death or suffocated, officials said.
“It was like an earthquake,” said Karim Sami, a 35-year-old street vendor. “I wrapped up my goods and was heading home when I saw a fire ball with a thunderous bombing.
I was so scared to go back and started to make phone calls to my friends, but none answered,” the father of three added. He said that one of his friends had been killed, another was wounded and one was still missing.
Within hours, IS claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online, saying they had deliberately targeted Shiite Muslims. The Associated Press could not verify
the authenticity of the statement, but it was posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists.
At the scene, firefighters and civilians were seen carrying the dead away, their bodies wrapped in blankets and sheets. Smoke billowed from the shopping center, which was surrounded by the twisted and burned wreckage of cars and market stalls. A group of women were sitting on the pavement, crying for their loved ones.
In the second attack, an improvised explosive device went off in Baghdad’s northern Shaab area, killing 5 people and wounding 16, another police officer said. No group claimed
responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of IS militants who often target commercial districts and Shiite areas.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorised to release information to the press.
The high death toll made it the second deadliest attack in the capital this year. On May 11, IS militants carried out three car bombings in Baghdad, killing 93 people.
Hours after the bombing, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and lawmakers visited the blast site. Video footage uploaded to social media showed an angry crowd, with people
calling al-Abadi a “thief” and shouting at his convoy.