Friday 13 December 2019

Dozens killed in Isil gun and bomb attacks on Baghdad

A boy walks through the site of suicide blasts in Baghdad yesterday as the death toll rose to 31. Photo: Wissm al-Okili
A boy walks through the site of suicide blasts in Baghdad yesterday as the death toll rose to 31. Photo: Wissm al-Okili

Kareem Raheem

Isil militants attacked Iraqi security forces on the western outskirts of Baghdad yesterday in their largest assault near the capital for months, while two suicide blasts in a mainly Shi'ite district killed 31 people.

Suicide bombers and gunmen in vehicles and on foot launched the attack on Abu Ghraib at dawn, seizing positions in a grain silo and a cemetery, and killing at least 17 members of the security forces, officials said.

Fighting was still raging at the silo site yesterday evening, security officials said.

Security officials blamed Isil, and a news agency that supports the group said it had launched a "wide attack" in Abu Ghraib, 25km from the centre of Baghdad and next to the international airport.

Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition airstrikes have driven Isil back recently in western Anbar province and are preparing for an offensive to retake the northern city of Mosul, but the militants are still able to strike in Baghdad and other cities outside their main areas of control.

Later yesterday, two suicide bombers riding motorcycles blew themselves up in a crowded mobile phone market in the Shi'ite Sadr City district, wounding more than 60 people in addition to the dead, police and medical sources said.

A witness saw pools of blood on the ground with slippers, shoes and mobile phones at the site of the blast, which was sealed off to prevent further attacks.

In a statement circulated online, Isil said two suicide bombers had carried out the attack, killing and wounding "hundreds of polytheist rejectionists", as the ultra-hardline Sunni group refers to Shi'ites.

Baghdad-based security analyst Jasim al-Bahadli said the attacks suggested it was premature to declare that Isil was losing the initiative in Iraq.

"Government forces must do a better job repelling attacks launched by Daesh. What happened today could be a setback for the security forces," he said, using an Arabic name for Isil.

In Abu Ghraib, a curfew was imposed as a regiment of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism forces were mobilised to retake the silo and prevent the militants approaching the nearby airport, security officials said.

Irish Independent

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