Deadly bomb blasts rip through central Baghdad

Nearly 20 people have been killed in multiple bomb blasts in a busy market in the Iraqi capital, police said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iraqis look at the aftermath following a double blast in a busy market area in Baghdad's Sinak neighborhoodIraqis look at the aftermath following a double blast in a busy market area in Baghdad’s Sinak neighborhood

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Mosul: the last stand for ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq

In a rare speech, the militant group’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for fighters to stand their ground in Mosul. DW spoke to Hassan Hassan, co-author of “ISIS: The Army of Terror,” to examine the implications.

At least 19 people have been killed and 38 others wounded on Saturday when two bombs exploded in a busy market in central Baghdad, according to Iraqi police.

Baghdad has been rocked by several bomb attacks in 2016, which have often left dozens killed and scores more injured.

The bombs went off near car spare parts shops in Sinak during the morning rush hour. One was triggered by a suicide bomber and another was a planted explosive, an interior ministry official told Reuters news agency.

Baghdad has been put on high alert since October, when Iraqi forces launched a military campaign to liberate Mosul from the “Islamic State” militant group.

Backed by the US-led coalition against the “Islamic State,” Kurdish forces and Shiite militias, the campaign has slowed due to fierce resistance from the militant group.

Although Raqqa in Syria is considered the militant group’s de facto capital, Mosul represents one of its most important strongholds. In June 2014, “Islamic State” leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of the group’s so-called “caliphate” from Mosul.

Saturday’s attack marks the biggest in the Iraqi capital since the beginning of the Mosul operation. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

ls/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Anti-‘IS’ offensive resumes in Iraqi city of Mosul

Iraq’s military says it has restarted its campaign to drive “Islamic State” (IS) militants from their northern bastion of Mosul. It hopes to move to within a few hundred meters of the city’s eastern limits on Monday.

Popular Mobilization Forces

“The target is to retake Bazwaya and Gogjali, the last two villages before Mosul,” a lieutenant colonel with Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency on Monday.

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Iraq forces launch operation to cut Mosul off from Syria

Paramilitaries in Iraq have launched an assault on the town of Tel Afar, which was mainly Shiite before it fell to Sunni jihadis. The Iran-backed Shiite militia have promised not to advance into majority Sunni Mosul. (29.10.2016)

The recapture of Mosul will not mean the end of ‘IS’

‘By far the biggest humanitarian disaster in the world’

‘IS’ committing massacres in Mosul as Iraqi forces push forward, says UN

UN: IS abducts thousands from Mosul to use as human shields

The Joint Operations Command coordinating Iraq’s war on “Islamic State” (IS) said CTS and army forces had launched a drive “to advance toward the left bank of the city of Mosul from three axes.”

AFP described how a coalition aircraft struck a suspected IS mortar position in the distance, while a convoy of Humvees sprayed gunfire toward an industrial area still held by jihadists.

IS resisting advance

The Associated Press (AP) said car bombers were trying to stop the advance, citing Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil, who said troops aimed to enter the eastern outskirts of Mosul later on Monday.

The coalition drive to retake the city began exactly two weeks ago. IS militants captured the city in June 2014 as they seized vast swathes of land in Iraq and neighboring Syria as part of their declaration of a caliphate, a state governed by strict Islamic law.

Last week Iraq’s elite counterterrorism unit had paused its advance on the city with a population of 1.5 million to allow forces advancing more slowly on other fronts to close the gap.

Advances have been slower in the south, with government forces still 20 miles (35 kilometers) from the city.

On Sunday, a new player joined the battlefield, as a  coalition of roughly 5,000 Iran-backed Shiite militias – known as Popular Mobilization Forces– headed north towards Mosul in gun trucks and Humvees.

Military officials said they were not headed directly for the IS-held city, but had set their sights on the town of Tal Afar to the west, the retaking of which would help cut supply lines between Mosul and the Syrian border.

Once Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish peshmerga, reach Mosul, they are expected to besiege the city on all sides, attempt to open safe corridors for civilians, and then take on diehard jihadists in street battles.

Baghdad bombed

On Sunday, five bombs rocked Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing at least 17 people and wounding over 60, police said.

Local media speculated that the attacks were likely carried out by IS in retaliation for Shiite fighters joining the Mosul offensive.

Watch video02:11

Mosul: coalition meets fierce resistance

mm/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Iraq violence: Dozens dead in Baghdad suicide attack on Shia

 

Iraqi security forces at the site of a suicide bombing in the Shaab area of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, 15 October 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionSo-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack

At least 35 people have died in a suicide attack targeting Shia in Iraq’s capital Baghdad, officials say.

More than 60 were injured in the blast, carried out on a tent in a crowded market in a northern district of the city.

So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Many Shia pilgrims are taking part in mourning rituals commemorating the killing of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hussein, in the 7th Century.

Reports say a militant detonated a suicide vest in the tent at lunchtime, when it was full of pilgrims.

IS said in a statement, published through the messaging service Telegram, that the attack on Saturday was carried out “in the middle of a gathering” in the Shaab area of Baghdad.

Map showing Baghdad and Tikrit in Iraq

BBC Middle East editor Sebastian Usher says Sunni militants have long used such pilgrimages as targets for attacks causing large scale casualties.

Elsewhere in Iraq, a suicide attack in Malha, an area east of the city of Tikrit, left eight people dead and 11 wounded, officials said.

In the village of Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, the wife and three children of a local commander were also shot dead by militants. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for these two attacks.

This year, IS revived its bombing campaign in Baghdad killing hundreds of people, in what is seen as a response to the group’s loss of much of its territory in Iraq.

In July, a lorry packed with explosives was detonated in central Baghdad’s popular shopping district of Karrada in what was the deadliest single bomb attack in Iraq since 2007.

The latest attacks come as Iraqi forces prepare for an offensive in northern Iraq on Mosul, the last IS-held major city in the country.

Midnight bombings kill 40, injure 60 outside Baghdad shopping mall

No group has claimed responsibility but Iraqi officials warned the group “Islamic State” (IS) has become increasingly desperate as it loses ground. Previous attacks have targeted civilian areas.

Irak Selbstmordanschlag Autobombe Baghdad

At least forty people were killed and a further 60 were wounded following twin explosions in downtown Baghdad, police and medical sources told German news agency DPA on Saturday. The double car bomb attack took place just before midnight on Friday near the popular Nakheel shopping mall.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials have warned that as IS fighters lost ground in Iraq and Syria, they were likely to carry out many smaller-scale terror attacks on civilians.

The first blast came from a parked car, authorities said, followed by an explosives-laden vehicle driven by a suicide bomber. An interior ministry spokesman said that none of the victims had been inside the mall but outside in the busy neighborhood surrounding it.

Reports of casualties varied according to the different sources immediately after the blasts. Doctors from the local hospital said they expected the death toll to rise further.

Last Tuesday, IS carried out a similar attack near a hospital in the bustling Karrada district, killing seven people. Karrada was also the site of the Iraqi capital’s deadliest-ever single bombing, which claimed the lives of 300 people in July.

es/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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Iraq hangs 36 men for Camp Speicher massacre

Soldiers said to have been captured by IS prior to execution, 14 June 2014Image copyrightAP
Image captionIslamic State militants filmed soldiers they captured in Tikrit, prior to their killing

Iraq has hanged 36 men convicted over the massacre of hundreds of soldiers near the city of Tikrit in June 2014.

Most of the victims are believed to have been young Shia recruits who were based at Camp Speicher when Tikrit was overrun by Islamic State militants.

It is estimated that up to 1,700 people died in one of the worst atrocities committed in Iraq in recent times.

Photos and videos published by IS at the time showed soldiers being lined up and shot at various locations.

Some bodies were pushed into the River Tigris, while others were buried in mass graves that were found after government forces recaptured the city a year later.

Iraqi Shia fighters examine a burial site thought to hold victims of the Camp Speicher massacreImage copyrightAFP
Image captionMass graves were discovered near Camp Speicher after Iraqi forces recaptured the area in 2015

“The executions of 36 convicted over the Speicher crime were carried out this morning in Nasiriyah prison,” a spokesman for the governor’s office in Dhiqar province told Agence France-Presse news agency.

Some 400 of the army recruits who were killed were from Dhiqar province.

The spokesman said that Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili was present at the executions.

Iraqi Shia militiamen carry the coffins of soldiers killed in the Speicher massacre (1 July 2015Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHundreds of bodies have been exhumed since the Speicher massacre

After a suicide truck bomb attack in Baghdad killed more than 300 people last month, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said that he wanted to speed up executions of those convicted of terrorism.

Those executed on Sunday, all believed to be Iraqi citizens, had been sentenced to death in February.

Some of the defendants said they had not been near Tikrit at the time of the massacre, while others said they had been denied access to lawyers, or had been forced to confess under torture.

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Interview: Gains made to retake Mosul and Raqqa from ISIL

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s military and U.S.-backed opposition forces in Syria are advancing on the Islamic State’s key strongholds with a new confidence not seen since the militants routed Iraqi forces two years ago, U.S. military commanders said.

“It’s fair to say we have the initiative,” Army Lt. Gen.Sean MacFarland, the top coalition commander here, said in an interview at his headquarters. “The momentum is growing.”

He said Iraqi forces in recent weeks have made rapid advances toward the city ofMosul, while U.S.-backed opposition forces in northern Syria are advancing on Raqqa, the militants’ de facto capital.

“We’re closing in on both of them,” MacFarland said about Mosul and Raqqa.

MacFarland and other top leaders acknowledge that tough fighting lies ahead. Both cities are home to thousands of civilians, and the U.S.-backed forces will face a complex urban battlefield, making it difficult to use airstrikes against the militants.

Commanders declined to predict about timing, but any final assault is at least still months away. Raqqa will likely take longer.

Militants have had two years to build a network of defenses in and around Mosul, and Iraqi forces are just now arriving at the outer belts. The coalition estimates between 5,000 and 6,000 fighters are inside the densely populated city.

“We expect that the fight will get more and more difficult the closer we get to Mosul,” Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky said.

The progress of recent weeks has given an air of inevitability to the campaign in both Iraq and Syria, as airstrikes and ground fighting have worn down the Islamic State.

Iraq’s military, much of which collapsed when the Islamic State swept into Iraq from Syria two years ago, has had a string of successes, including the recapture ofFallujah and Ramadi. Last month, U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes decimated a militant convoy attempting to flee Fallujah, killing more than 400 militants.

As Iraqi forces were driving the Islamic State from Fallujah, other forces advanced on Mosul in a series of complex maneuvers that highlighted the progress Iraq’s military has made both in capabilities and willingness to fight.

Iraq’s 9th armored division and a brigade of Iraqi special operations forces spearheaded an advance of more than 50 miles up the Tigris River Valley. Iraqi forces also built an expeditionary bridge across the Tigris while fighting militants.

“This is a different Iraqi army than what was here a year ago,” Volesky said.

The bridge and the Qayyarah West air base, about 39 miles south of Mosul, will ensure secure supply lines for the Mosul offensive and have disrupted and isolated militants in the area south of Mosul.

In Syria, U.S.-backed opposition forces have circled the town of Manbij and seized parts of the city, including a hospital where militants had set up a headquarters.

Capturing the city would consolidate territory held by U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria and also prove the worth of a growing number of U.S.-backed Arab fighters who will be essential for taking Raqqa, about 70 miles south of Manbij.

The U.S. military backs a force of about 30,000 opposition fighters in Syria. The U.S. has deployed about 300 special operations forces to the region to help organize and recruit opposition fighters willing to take on the Islamic State.

Still, much of the success in battling the Islamic State in northern Syria has been the work of Kurdish forces, who have pushed the militants out of their territory. The United States has attempted to build a coalition of Arab forces who can expand the fighting beyond Kurdish-controlled areas.

Earlier this year the White House authorized an additional 250 special operations forces to deploy to Syria, largely to expand Arab involvement in the Syrian Defense Force.

Manbij is a key test of those efforts. “We’re learning a lot about how to work with theSyrian Arab Coalition in the Manbij fight,” MacFarland said. The U.S.-led coalition has refined its ability to coordinate airstrikes with the forces fighting in Manjib, providing the opposition with a key advantage over the militants.

The fighting has been difficult, since the militants defending Manbij put up a more determined resistance than many of their counterparts in Iraq.

“They are more inclined to trade space for time in Iraq,” MacFarland said. “They’re less able to do that in Syria, because Syria is really their core holding.”

But the opposition force, most of whom are part of the Arab coalition, continued to press into the city, raising hopes it will be capable of expanding and taking on militants in Raqqa.

“It has been building by building, block by block fighting,” he said of Manbij.

Commanders expect to see similar resistance in Raqqa. “The enemy will probably fight harder in Raqqa than they will in Mosul,” MacFarland said.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, is increasingly turning to terror attacks on civilian targets around the world as it has lost territory in Iraq and Syria.

“When Mosul falls, it’s not going to be like ISIL is just going to disappear,” Volesky said. “They are going to go out and try to maintain relevance.”

The U.S.-led coalition will need to continue pressuring the Islamic State even if it loses its self-proclaimed caliphate, officials said.

“Destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria is necessary, but it’s not sufficient,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. “ISIL’s influence and activities continue to pose a threat.”

 

Iraq sees worst bombing since invasion with 250 deaths

Media captionJeremy Bowen reports: “People are furious that jihadists seem to be able to bomb Baghdad at will”

The death toll from Sunday’s suicide bombing in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has risen to 250, the Iraqi government says, making it the deadliest such attack since the 2003 US-led invasion.

A lorry packed with explosives was detonated in the Karrada district while families were shopping for the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it carried out the suicide attack.

An earlier estimate for the attack had put the toll at 165.

Iraq remains under an official state of mourning following the bombing.

The destruction of the area was all but complete. Bewildered local residents have held candlelight vigils and prayed for peace.

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Major attacks in Iraq since 2003

Iraqi Shia fighters examine a burial site thought to hold victims of the Camp Speicher massacre.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMass graves were discovered near Camp Speicher after Iraqi government forces recaptured the area
  • 3 July 2016: Islamic State bombing in Baghdad kills 250
  • August 2014: IS kill hundreds of minority Yazidi men and boys in Nineveh province, north-west of Baghdad
  • 12 June 2014: Up to 1,700 military recruits are killed by IS at a former US base, an incident known as the Camp Speicher massacre
  • 19 August 2009: Two car bombs near the Green Zone in Baghdad kill at least 155 people
  • 14 August 2007: Multiple suicide bombings targeting the Yazidi community in northern Iraq kill more than 500 people
  • 23 November 2006: More than 200 people killed as six car bombs detonate in the Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad
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Engulfed in flames

Scores of people were also injured but most have been released from hospital, according to the Iraqi health ministry.

The ministry said those critically injured had been sent abroad, without giving further details.

The bombing in a mostly Shia Muslim area just after midnight came a week after Iraqi forces had recaptured the city of Falluja from IS.

A bomb victim's funeral in Baghdad, 5 JulyImage copyrightAP
Image captionThe funeral of bomb victim Akram Hadi, 24, took place on Tuesday
Iraqis light candles following Sunday's deadly suicide attackImage copyrightAFP
Image captionIraq declared three days of official mourning following the attack

Reports said a lorry had been packed with explosives and left near the Hadi Center, popular with shoppers.

The powerful blast engulfed the area in flames. Such was the chaos it took days for the scale of the attack to become clear.

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Hope blasted away: Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor, Baghdad

Saddam Hussein’s regime was harsh, and it could be murderous. He led the country into a series of disastrous wars and brought crippling international sanctions down on their heads.

But with the benefit of 13 years of hindsight, the world that existed before 9 April 2003 seems to be a calmer, more secure place. They have not had a proper day of peace since the old regime fell.

As for democracy, many I have spoken to believe the hopelessly sectarian political system is broken. At least, they say, law and order existed under Saddam.

Some hoped things might get better after the army’s victory over IS in Falluja. The devastating bomb attack in Baghdad in the early hours of Sunday has blasted that hope away.

Read more from our correspondent

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The Iraqi government has been heavily criticised over the attack, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met by angry crowds when he visited the blast site.

Media captionBaghdad explosion hit a very busy area

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabban submitted his resignation but it has not yet been accepted.

He described checkpoints dotted through Baghdad as “absolutely useless”, according to AFP news agency.

The government has stepped up security in Baghdad and also said a group of prisoners convicted of terror crimes would be put to death in the immediate future.

An Iraqi woman grieves for a relative killed in an IS-claimed suicide attack, 5 JulyImage copyrightAP
Image captionThe government has been criticised for failing to do more to prevent such bombings
An Iraqi man looks for victims of a suicide bombing, 5 JulyImage copyrightAP
Image captionBodies continue to be recovered

IS follows an extreme version of Sunni Islam and has frequently targeted Shia, whom it regards as apostates.

The group has suffered a series of territorial losses in Iraq and analysts say it is increasingly resorting to insurgent tactics.