19 people killed in series of car bomb attacks in Iraq
A series of car bombs today ripped through a crowded marketplace and a Shiite militia's checkpoint, killing 19 people in separate attacks north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
The blasts came as the country's prime minister vowed to punish those who smashed ancient artefacts in the northern city of Mosul.
Police said the first attack took place today when a car bomb exploded near a busy market in the town of Balad Ruz. Minutes later, a second car bomb went off, targeting people who gathered to inspect the site of the first blast.
Balad Ruz is 45 miles north-east of Baghdad.
Police and hospital officials said 11 people were killed and 50 wounded.
Later, a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a checkpoint manned by Shiite militiamen who are fighting Islamic State militants near the city of Samarra, killing eight Shiite fighters and wounding 15 others.
Samarra and the surrounding areas have been under constant attacks by the Islamic State group, which captured large swathes of western and northern Iraq last summer.
Police said clashes erupted between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants following the attack in areas around Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.
Nobody immediately claimed responsibly for the attacks. Iraq sees near-daily attacks that are often claimed by the Islamic State group, which seized about a third of the country last year. Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militiamen have been struggling to retake areas lost to the group.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi vowed to track down and punish those who were behind the smashing of rare ancient artefacts in Mosul.
On Thursday, the Islamic State group released a video purportedly showing militants using sledgehammers to smash the statues, describing them as idols that must be removed. The act brought global condemnation.
"Those barbaric, criminal terrorists are trying to destroy the heritage of mankind and Iraq's civilisation. We will chase them in order to make them pay for every drop of blood shed in Iraq and for the destruction of Iraq's civilisation," said al-Abadi during a celebration held in the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad today.
He said that Islamic State militants destroyed some of the Mosul artefacts, and are smuggling others.
Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and the surrounding Nineveh province fell to the militants as Iraqi security forces melted away during the Islamic State group's summer attacks.