Sunday 25 September 2016

Triple Baghdad bombings kill at least 63 as political unrest grows

Carole Eaves in Beirut

Published 18/05/2016 | 02:30

Iraqi security forces and people gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Photo: Reuters
Iraqi security forces and people gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Photo: Reuters
Iraqis gather at the site of a suicide bombing in the Shaab area in northern Baghda.
People gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Photo: Reuters
People gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Photo: Reuters

Three bombings killed at least 63 people and wounded more than 100 in Baghdad yesterday, extending the deadliest spate of attacks in the Iraqi capital so far this year.

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A suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in a marketplace in the northern, mainly Shia Muslim district of al-Shaab killed 38 people and wounded more than 70, while a car bomb in nearby Shia Sadr City left at least 19 more dead and 17 wounded.

Another car bomb, in the mixed Shia-Sunni southern neighbourhood of al-Rasheed, killed six and wounded 21, the sources said, in what a military spokesman described as a suicide attack.

A spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command told state television the attacker in al-Shaab had set off an explosives-filled vest in co-ordination with a planted bomb. Initial investigations revealed the attacker had been a woman, he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the other attacks. Isil has claimed bombings in and around the capital last week that killed 100 people and sparked popular anger against the government for failing to ensure security.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said a political crisis sparked by his attempt to reshuffle the cabinet in an anti-corruption bid was hampering the fight against Isil and creating space for more insurgent attacks on the civilian population. Security has improved somewhat in the capital in recent years, even as Isil fighters seized swathes of the country almost to the outskirts of Baghdad's ramparts.

People gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Photo: Reuters
People gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Photo: Reuters

Meanwhile, Syria's regime has used sarin nerve gas for the first time since 2013, dropping bombs laden with the chemical agent on Isil fighters outside Damascus, according to a senior Israeli official.

This use of sarin would show that Bashar al-Assad has retained the ability to gas his enemies despite an agreement that supposedly disarmed Syria of its chemical arsenal.

That deal was reached after the regime used sarin and VX gas to kill as many as 1,400 people in rebel-held areas of Damascus on August 21, 2013.

US President Barack Obama had declared the use of chemical weapons to be a "red line" that would trigger US air strikes.

Once Assad agreed to disarm, however, Mr Obama abandoned his plan for military action.

Since then, Assad's forces are believed to have used relatively unsophisticated chlorine gas on several dozen occasions. But the regime refrained from employing sarin - a far more lethal substance - until the latest incident.

The Syrian air force dropped the bombs laden with sarin just over three weeks ago, said the official.

Irish Independent

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