Bomber kills at least 27 people in another bloody day in Iraq

Friday 26/02/2016
More lives and more tears

BAGHDAD - At least 27 people were killed when a bomber detonated his explosive vest at a funeral for the relative of a Shiite Muslim militia commander in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala on Monday, security and medical sources said.

The attack in Muqdadiya, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad follows the deadliest bombing inside the capital so far this year, which left 78 people dead in a Shiite district on Sunday.

Security officials and police in Diyala said the target of the attack was two local commanders of the Hashid Shaabi umbrella group of Shiite militias who were attending the funeral ceremony for one of their relatives.

"The suicide attacker approached the local Hashid commanders and then blew his vest up, killing both with many others," said one police major on condition of anonymity. A further 55 people were wounded, the sources said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but attacks on Shiite Muslims are often claimed by Islamic State militants who control large parts of north and western Iraq.

Iraqi officials declared victory over the insurgents in Diyala a year ago, but Islamic State has remained active. The Badr Organisation has established itself as the ascendant militia in the region after rolling back the insurgents.

Security officials and witnesses say the situation inside Muqdadiya is very tense, with dozens of Shiite militia members deployed in the streets with no presence of the security forces.

Militia elements have been accused of attacking Sunni mosques and residents in Diyala following similar bombings in January, but the groups have denied the allegations and blamed Islamic State.

The Muqdadiyah attack came a day after bombings in a Shiite area of northern Baghdad killed at least 73 people, the deadliest attacks in the capital so far this year.

ISIS said in an online statement that two of its suicide bombers carried out the Baghdad attacks.

Several of the critically wounded died overnight while 112 people remain in hospital, two police officials said. Also, at least five people were still missing after the blast that ripped through the crowded Mredi market in the Shiite district of Sadr City, followed by a suicide bombing amid the crowd that had quickly gathered at the site to help the victims.

Three medical officials confirmed the latest death toll, which rose from the toll of 59 reported late Sunday. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Iraq's Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, called on security forces to "exert further efforts to prevent the terrorists from carrying out their crimes against innocent civilians."

Al-Abadi, in a statement released late Sunday, said the attacks "will not stop us ... but they will increase the determination" of the army, security forces and paramilitary troops to dislodge the militants from areas under their control.

The special UN envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, called the Sadr City bombings a "particularly vicious and cowardly terrorist attack" aimed against "peaceful civilians who were going about their daily business."

"It is clearly aimed at inflaming sectarian strife," he said Monday.

The Islamic State group, which controls key areas in northern and western Iraq, promptly claimed responsibility for Sunday's blasts. The militant Sunni Muslim group regularly targets government forces, civilians and especially Shiites, who the ISIS regards as heretics.

The market bombings in Sadr City were the deadliest attack in a wave of explosions that targeted other commercial areas in and outside Baghdad on Sunday and brought the day's overall death toll to 92.

Seven other civilians were killed in attacks elsewhere and in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, security forces earlier Sunday repelled an attack by ISIS militants that killed at least 12 members of the government and paramilitary troops and wounded 35 others.

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