Tuesday 23 January 2018

Death toll from IS Baghdad truck bomb attack rises to 157

People light candles at the scene of the bomb attack in Karada (AP)
People light candles at the scene of the bomb attack in Karada (AP)

The death toll from the truck bomb attack in a busy Baghdad commercial street at the weekend has risen to 157, Iraqi authorities said, as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered new security measures in the capital.

The attack early on Sunday, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, was one of the worst single bombings in Iraq over more than a decade of war and insurgency.

It underlined IS's ability to strike the Iraqi capital despite a string of battlefield losses elsewhere in the country and fuelled public anger towards the government.

A suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden vehicle in Baghdad's mostly Shiite Karada district, a favourite destination for shoppers - especially during the holy month of Ramadan. The streets and pavements were filled with young people and families after they had broken their daylight fast.

Police and health officials said on Monday that the death toll had reached 157 but that it was likely to increase even further as rescuers are still looking for missing people.

Officials said at least 12 people are confirmed missing. At least 190 people were injured in the blast.

A string of smaller bombings elsewhere in Baghdad on Monday killed 10 people and wounded 31, the officials said.

In a statement issued on Sunday evening, Mr al-Abadi ordered security forces to stop using a repeatedly-discredited hand-held bomb detection device. He also ordered the reopening of an investigation on the procurement of the British-made electronic wands, called ADE 651s.

In 2010, British authorities arrested the director of the British company ATSC Ltd on fraud charges, prompting Iraqis to open their own investigation into alleged corruption. Iraqi authorities made some arrests, but the investigation went nowhere and the device remained in use.

On Monday evening, Associated Press reporters saw a number of the devices still being used at checkpoints around the capital.

Mr Al-Abadi also ordered that X-ray systems be installed at the entrances of provinces. He demanded the upgrade of the capital's security belt, increased aerial scanning and stepped-up intelligence efforts.

Iraqi and foreign officials have linked the recent increase in IS attacks - especially large-scale suicide bombings - with the string of battlefield losses the extremist group has faced over the past year.

Iraqi security forces, supported by US-led coalition air strikes, have retaken the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah.

At the height of the extremist group's power in 2014, IS had deprived the government of control of nearly one third of Iraqi territory. Now the militants are estimated to control only 14%, according to the prime minister's office. IS still controls Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.


Press Association

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