IRAQ BAGHDAD CAR BOMB attack.jpg
Photograph: EPA/AHMED ALI

At least 80 people were killed in the Baghdad area on Tuesday when bomb attacks, the biggest of which was claimed by the Islamic State extremist group, hit five districts in and around the Iraqi capital.

The bombings, which left another 190 people injured according to eye witnesses and security and medical officials, marked the sixth day out of seven that the city was hit by deadly attacks targeting mainly Shiite areas.

The Iraqi government said that Islamic State was lashing out in response to recent gains by security forces who are pushing into the western al-Anbar province, long a stronghold of the Sunni extremist group.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi demanded a shake-up in the country's security services to improve the defence of cities against bomb attacks, and ordered the arrest of the head of security in the capital's al-Shaab district where the worst attack took place.

Eyewitnesses in the mainly Shiite district said that a car bomb went off in a marketplace in the area, following which a female suicide bomber blew herself up.

The double attack claimed 47 lives, according to witnesses and officials.

In the city's eastern Sadr City district, scene of a bombing in which more than 60 people lost their lives on Wednesday, 22 more people fell victim to a car bomb.

Militants loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr sealed off the district and mounted guard on government buildings after the blast.

Further deadly car bomb attacks hit the south-eastern al-Amin district and the religiously mixed al-Rashid and Yusufiyah areas south of the city.

Security forces were deployed in force to secure the city against further attacks, while ambulances raced through the streets throughout the day.

Al-Sadr, who has been calling for the sacking of al-Abadi's cabinet and the installation of a technocratic administration, said that the blasts proved the government was unable to protect civilians.

Islamic State supporters on social media circulated a statement saying a male suicide bomber had carried out the al-Shaab attack. The bomber targeted members of Shiite paramilitary forces, the statement claimed.

Dpa could not independently authenticate the claim, but it was similar to previous such claims issued by the extremist group.

Islamic State has frequently targeted crowded markets and restaurants in mainly Shiite areas, as well as attacking Shiite religious ceremonies and security forces.

The Iraqi government pointed to recent advances by security forces as motivating the attack, noting that troops had on Monday started an operation to recapture the town of al-Rutba, in al-Anbar province near the Jordanian borders.

A government statement said that "the enemy steps up its crimes against innocent citizens every time it suffers defeats on the front against our heroic fighters."

Al-Abadi's spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said that the premier had ordered "changes in the intelligence system to protect our cities from terrorism," but gave no details of the planned shake-up.

Over 180 people have been killed in a wave of bomb and gun attacks in and around Baghdad over the last week.

Al-Abadi on Saturday charged that a political crisis in the capital was working to the extremist group's advantage.

The premier has been trying for months to form a more technocratic government in an effort to combat corruption and bad administration.

He has come under pressure from al-Sadr, who is seeking to spearhead popular anger against the political elite and has brought thousands of followers onto the streets to call for the sacking of the government, al-Abadi himself and President Fouad Massoum. 

But rival political parties, which have carved out fiefdoms in various ministries, have been obstructing al-Abadi's moves.

Latest news

Danish premier and opposition leader reject EU referendum

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and the leader of the main opposition Social Democrats both reject staging a referendum on the country's membership of the European Union as suggested by eurosceptics.

French PM slams "irresponsible" Fillon over "near-civil war" comment

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve hit back Monday at conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon, accusing him of being "irresponsible" for saying the race was taking place in a climate of "near-civil war."

Serbia opens two more policy areas in its EU accession talks

Serbia on Monday opened two new policy areas in its EU entry talks, thus bringing the number of opened policy areas to eight.

EC: Economic sentiment for Croatia deteriorates in February

The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI), a composite indicator made up of five sectoral confidence indicators, deteriorated for Croatia in February with the subdued confidence of companies from the services and retail sectors having a higher weight than improving consumers' confidence, according to a report released by the European Commission on Monday.

Frankfurt, London exchange operators' stock fall on merger doubts

Shares in the operators of the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the Deutsche Boerse fell sharply on Monday after the LSE threw fresh doubts on their planned 29-billion-euro (30.1-billion-dollar) merger to forge Europe's biggest exchange.

ICJ asks Bosnia's leadership to state its position on review request

The State Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina will have to make a clear statement as to whether it supports the request for a review of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) genocide ruling against Serbia, the Croat member of the country's three-member presidency, Dragan Covic, said on Monday.

White Helmets, grateful for Oscar nod, hope for peace in Syria

Members of the Syria Civil Defence group, a neutral team of some 3,000 volunteers providing aid to Syria's rebel-held areas, expressed joy on Monday that a film documenting their work won an Oscar for best short documentary.

Arson attack at French cultural institute in Athens

Unknown assailants have carried out an arson attack on the French cultural institute in Athens, the fire brigade and police reported on Monday.

INA Group posts core business profit of HRK 607 mn

The INA oil and gas group made positive results in 2016, with profit from operations reaching HRK 607 million, compared to a HRK 1.34 billion loss for 2015, the Zagreb-headquartered group stated in a consolidated financial report issued on Monday.

Report: Former Croatian football star Cvetkovic found dead

The former Yugolsavia international and Bundesliga defender Zvezdan Cvetkovic has died, the Croatian state broadcaster HRT reported Monday.

Youth who posted anti-Serb stickers in Vukovar placed in custody

Following a police investigation, a 19-year-old youth from the eastern town of Vukovar, suspected of posting anti-Serb stickers on bus stops along the town's Trpinjska Street, has been placed in custody on the suspicion of inciting violence and hatred, the county police department said on Monday.

US strongly condemns neo-Nazi march in Zagreb

The US Embassy in Zagreb on Monday strongly condemned neo-Nazi and pro-Ustasha views expressed during a demonstration by several dozen people, organised by the non-parliamentary far-right Autochthonous Croatian Party of Rights (A-HSP) in Zagreb on Sunday.