Suicide car bomber hit Iraqi capital near the end of Ramadan festival with streets full of people
BAGHDAD (Iraq) — At least 213 people were killed and 200 wounded in two bombings overnight in Baghdad, most of them in a busy shopping area as residents celebrated Ramadan, security officials said.
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 213 people and wounding up to 200 others, according to a police officer.
The blast is the deadliest to hit Iraq’s capital so far this year, the officials said.
The powerful explosion early on Sunday when the streets were filled with young people and families who were out to eat, shop and celebrate one of the last evenings of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The bombing claimed by the Islamic State group ripped through a busy Karrada district of Baghdad’s shopping area in Karrada district when shoppers were busy preparing for this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday. Many of the victims were children, officials said, and there were fears the death toll could rise as more bodies could be lying under the rubble of devastated buildings.
Most of the victims were inside a multi-story shopping and amusement mall, where dozens burned to death or suffocated, officials said. The blast sparked infernos in nearby buildings, and emergency personnel and relatives of the victims were still searching on Monday for the missing.
“It was like an earthquake,” Karim Sami, a street vendor, told AP. “I wrapped up my goods and was heading home when I saw a fire ball with a thunderous bombing.”
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based monitoring service.
In a separate blast also on Sunday morning, an improvised explosive device went off in a popular market in the mainly Shia neighbourhood of al-Shaab.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, visiting the site of the bombing, was met by an angry mob throwing stones at his vehicle convoy, calling him a thief. Though he vowed “punishment” for the perpetrators, bystanders cursed him and his government who they blame for not preventing the carnage on Iraq’s streets that is repeated all too often.
Many Iraqis blame their political leadership for security lapses that have allowed large amounts of explosives to make their way past multiple checkpoints and into areas packed with civilians.
“All the politicians in Iraq are responsible for these blasts, including Abadi,” a woman in Karada told local media. “We can’t enjoy the Eid; if it isn’t ISIL, it’s al-Qaeda, and if it isn’t the two, it’s the filthy corrupt politics in this country.”
The horrifying images and video show the deadly inferno that ripped through a packed Baghdad shopping centre where Iraqis were busy preparing for Eid festival.
Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, also urged unity in condemning the attack.
“The terrorists of Daesh [ISIS] who have suffered defeats at the battlefront are seeking to avenge their losses by targeting vulnerable civilians,” he said. “Despite the pain and agony the Iraqi people will not surrender to the designs of those terrorists, will continue to reject their ways through displaying steadfast national unity and will eventually triumph.”
The attack, which security and medical officials said killed at least 213 people and wounded more than 200, came a week after the Iraqi forces recaptured Fallujah from Islamic State, leaving Mosul as the only Iraqi city under the group’s control.