BAGHDAD — The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a bombing in eastern Iraq, and Iraqi officials on Saturday said the death toll had risen to 100, with 20 more missing and more than 100 wounded.
The bomb tore through a marketplace on Friday as shoppers prepared for a major Muslim holiday in Khan Bani Saad, a mostly Shiite town about 12 miles from Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province.
Government troops and Shiite militias months ago wrested back parts of the province from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and Daesh, its Arabic acronym.
The attack was a blow to the unity and optimism that Iraqi officials have sought to project as they mount a new offensive to drive the militants out of Anbar Province, to the west. The government has struggled to oust the group, more than a year after Islamic State fighters seized large areas of northern and western Iraq.
In a statement claiming responsibility for the blast, the Islamic State, which has often singled out Shiites as targets, declared that the bombing was revenge for what it called a massacre of Sunnis in the town of Hawija, farther north.
The statement may have been referring to an episode in March, during a battle that eventually drove the Islamic State from the central city of Tikrit. Residents of Hawija reported at the time that dozens of Islamic State fighters had been killed by their commanders for trying to flee the battlefield.
It is not unusual for conflicting accounts of clashes to emerge. There have also been cases of indiscriminate killings by some Shiite militias in areas that they have taken back from the Islamic State.
The militant group also claimed in its statement that the bomb had hit “a gathering of Shiite militias.” But Iraqi officials said that many civilians, including women and children, were killed or wounded in the blast.
The Islamic State, which follows an extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam, views Shiites as apostates and has often attacked Shiite civilians. Its statement declared that it used three tons of explosives to kill and wound more than 180 “apostates.”
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement that the Islamic State was attacking civilians in response to recent government advances.
“The terrorist criminal gangs of Daesh committed a heinous crime targeting civilians in Khan Bani Saad after the victories achieved by our heroic forces in various places, and the Anbar operation is part of it,” he said.
The bomb struck as people were shopping for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Sunni Muslims generally celebrated the holiday a day earlier.
The police and health officials said that in addition to the dead, at least 133 people were wounded in the blast. Identifying the dead was a painstaking task because many bodies were dismembered, the officials said.
It was the most deadly bombing in the area since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, said Khudhur al-Ubaidi, the secretary of the Diyala provincial council, adding that the death toll was expected to rise because “most of the injured are in critical condition, and more bodies are still under the rubble.”
Bombings have been a terrifying commonplace in Iraq since long before the Islamic State existed in its current form. They often struck at Shiite religious gatherings, but also hit marketplaces with shoppers of all sects, throughout the American occupation and the years of sectarian infighting that peaked in 2006 and 2007.
In recent years, car bombs and suicide bombs have been the militants’ weapons of choice for attacks in government-held areas.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
(via NY Times)