The Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, is only a few days away.

But this year, for many residents of Baghdad, it will be a time for mourning rather than celebration.

In the city's Karada district, where a massive bomb blast killed at least 213 people in the early hours of Sunday morning, tents are being erected for families of the victims who are receiving those offering condolences.

The attack, claimed by the Islamic State Sunni extremist group, was the deadliest in years in a city that is used to murderous attacks.

Targeting Baghdad's most upmarket shopping district, the bombers knew exactly when to strike: the last few days of Ramadan are a busy shopping time as people buy presents and new clothes ahead of the holiday.

The early hours of the morning see the biggest crowds, before the daytime fasting begins and while temperatures are still cooler than the 48 degrees often reached by the Iraqi capital during the day.

Some of the mourners have lost as many as three or four sons and daughters.

As the bereaved families set up tents or hire mosque halls around the city, rescue workers are still trying to find the remains of other victims.

About 100 people are thought to be still missing, and hospitals are keeping dozens of unidentified bodies and body parts, while families crowd at the gates, desperate for news of their loved ones.

Social media sites are flooded with pictures of the missing and appeals for information on their fate.

The area around the blast site has been cordoned off as rescue teams search the charred ruins of an estimated 250 shops, clinics and apartments destroyed in the flames started by the car bomb blast.

They are struggling with smoke, fumes and some remaining fires. Dozens of vehicles also burnt out after the attack, including minibuses where the flames consumed the bodies of the passengers.

One of those waiting near the scene for the results of the search operation is 56-year-old Abu Muntazir.

"I lost one of my sons in the explosion and I'm still looking for him in the hospitals and at the scene of the explosion without any success," he explains.

He is resigned to the likelihood that his son is dead. "I want to find his body so I can bury him."

Charred bodies and severed limbs are still being found on the scene, a rescue official, who asked not to be named, told dpa.

Along with the desolation of the bereaved, a sense of anger towards the authorities is palpable.

"What happened in Karada won't be the last attack and it won't be the worst," says 37-year-old Khalida Ahmed, a civil servant.

"The security system has proven that it's corrupt and a failure," she adds.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced immediate measures to step up security in the aftermath of the attack.

On Sunday, he ordered security forces to immediately stop using fake bomb detectors which were supplied to Iraq over several years by James McCormick, a British businessman.

Yet that decision itself points to how dysfunctional Iraqi security measures can be.

It is now three years since a British court jailed McCormick after hearing that the detectors - based on a novelty golf ball finder - had no scientific basis.

But, at least until yesterday, they remained in widespread use at the checkpoints that are supposed to secure the city against Islamic State's frequent attacks.

Near the scene of the blast, 25-year-old Ahmed Saaidi is not optimistic, arguing that security issues are hostage to the country's feuding political forces.

"Security in Baghdad is being led by the political movements and major parties who are working against the security forces in various ways, so that their own militias can gain control of the streets," Saaidi says.

"And," he adds, "the Iraqi government is still working to a backward security plan that isn't based on any sound intelligence work."

Related stories

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.