Sunday 17 December 2017

Deadly suicide bombings hit eastern Mosul

Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul liberated from Islamic State weeks ago (Khalid Mohammed/AP)
Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul liberated from Islamic State weeks ago (Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Two suicide bombings in the eastern half of Mosul, including one that hit a popular restaurant, have killed at least five people and wounded more than a dozen others, Iraqi military and medical officials said.

Islamic State (IS), which still firmly controls western Mosul, a more densely populated urban area, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul liberated from IS weeks ago, allowing for a semblance of normalcy to slowly return to that part of the city - including residents playing football games and walking about without the restrictions imposed by the Sunni militant group.

IS had ruled the entire city and large swathes of northern and western Iraq for more than two years, imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.

The restaurant targeted on Friday - the popular Sayda Jamila, located near a traffic circle by the same name - was among a few that had recently reopened.

Shops selling clothing, mobile phones and fresh produce trucked in from nearby Irbil have also opened their doors, though clean drinking water and other services remain in short supply in eastern Mosul.

Along with four people killed in the restaurant blast, seven were wounded, Iraqi military and security officials said.

The second attack on Friday targeted a checkpoint in the Nour neighbourhood and killed one soldier and wounded seven people, according to military officials.

Three soldiers were among those wounded in the checkpoint attack.

Officers on the ground appealed for better intelligence to prevent attacks like Friday's, apparently meant to undermine the Iraqi forces' efforts to maintain security in eastern Mosul ahead of the much larger battle that awaits, the one for the city's western half.

"We need support from the central government for intelligence work," said Brigadier General Wathaq Hamdani, Nineveh's police chief.

Brig Gen Hamdani said the area of the restaurant attack has since been closed off and blamed the attack on an IS sleeper cell.

Within hours, IS claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement carried by the IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency.

However, the militant statement claimed IS had launched three suicide attacks, one with an explosives-laden car and two with bombers on foot, carrying explosives vests.

It said the attacks took place in the neighbourhoods of Nour, al-Zuhour and al-Ziraei.

Iraqi and US officials have repeatedly warned of the threats of IS insurgents in territory declared liberated from the militants.

AP

Press Association

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