More than 100 dead as bomb hits Ramadan crowds in Baghdad

Over 100 people were killed on Sunday morning, an Iraqi police official said, after a car bomb attack claimed by the Islamic State extremist group hit crowds during the busy shopping period ahead of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

At least 170 more people were injured in the bombing, which rocked a busy commercial area in the Iraqi capital's central district of Karada, the official, who declined to be quoted by name, said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared three days official mourning after visiting the scene of the attack. Video footage posted online showed people jeering and throwing objects at his convoy.

In an online statement circulated by its supporters, which dpa could not verify, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group, which has claimed numerous deadly bombings in mainly Shiite areas of Baghdad, alleged that a suicide bomber targeted a crowd of Shiites.

The bomb went off about 1 am (2200 GMT) on Sunday morning, a time when locals shop for presents for the Eid festival at the end of Ramadan and crowd into restaurants to eat the pre-dawn meal that prepares them for a day of fasting.

Among those killed in the attack, 50 could not be identified because their bodies were charred, independent Iraqi news website Almada Press reported, citing a Baghdad health official.

Footage on local broadcasters from the site of the bombing showed burnt-out cars and damaged buildings.

The police official said that a precise death toll could not yet be established because of ongoing deaths among those critically injured and the likely presence of further bodies under the rubble.

The attack follows several military setbacks suffered by Islamic State in Iraq amid a government push to retake areas controlled by the Sunni extremist group.

Al-Abadi accused what he called "terrorist gangs" of carrying out the bombing after "they were crushed on the battlefield," state broadcaster al-Iraqiya reported.

The United States condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the attack, which US State Department spokesman John Kirby said illustrated Islamic State's "contempt for human life."

The attack came a week after the Iraqi government announced that it had retaken full control of the mostly Sunni city of Fallujah, a key Islamic State stronghold some 50 kilometres west of Baghdad.

Independent website Alsumaria News reported that al-Abadi quickly left Karada because of locals' anger at the alleged inefficiency of security forces, which they blamed for the bombing.

A video posted online showed an angry crowd throwing stones and jerry cans at al-Abadi's convoy.

The premier said that he "understands the emotional feelings and actions that took place in a moment of grief and anger."

In a statement published by his office, he said it was his "patriotic and moral duty" to see citizens' circumstances for himself, especially after terrorist attacks.

Baghdad military operations spokesman General Saad Maan said that a group suspected of involvement in the Karada attack had been arrested. He did not give details.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed the bloc's condolences to the friends and families of the victims, noting reports that many of the dead were children.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, nine people were killed and 11 injured in another explosion, with conflicting reports about its cause.

Some local media said the blast in a market in the mostly Shiite Shaab district in the north of the city had resulted from a bomb.

The Interior Ministry said that an accidental fire erupted in the area, causing a blast inside a store.

In recent months, Iraq, backed by a US-led air alliance, has intensified a military campaign to drive Islamic State from its strongholds in the country's mostly Sunni western and northern areas.

The group is also under pressure from Kurdish-led forces in neighbouring Syria, who are seeking to cut it off from the Turkish border, its last direct link to the outside world.

On June 18, government forces started a major attack near Islamic State's northern stronghold of Mosul, which is Iraq's second-largest city.

Last update: Sun, 03/07/2016 - 21:54
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