At least 32 killed by Baghdad car bomb amid battle for Mosul

Hundreds of Iraqis flee to camps as the military operation to retake Mosul from Islamic State continues.
The charred remains of a vehicle at the site of the bomb attack in Sadr City, in north-east Baghdad, yesterday. Many of the victims were daily labourers waiting for jobs.
The charred remains of a vehicle at the site of the bomb attack in Sadr City, in north-east Baghdad, yesterday. Many of the victims were daily labourers waiting for jobs. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BAGHDAD • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group yesterday claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack that killed at least 32 people in Baghdad.

The militant group took responsibility for the blast in Sadr City via its propaganda agency Amaq, claiming the "martyrdom operation" had killed around 40 people.

Iraqi police sources said at least 32 people were killed and more than 60 wounded when an explosives-laden vehicle went off yesterday in a square.

Many of the victims were daily labourers waiting for jobs at an intersection in Sadr, a sprawling majority Shi'ite neighbourhood in the north-east of the capital that has been repeatedly targeted.

US-backed Iraqi forces are currently fighting to push ISIS from the northern city of Mosul, but are facing fierce resistance. The group has lost most of the territory it seized in a blitz across northern and western Iraq in 2014.

The recapture of Mosul would probably spell the end for its self-styled caliphate, but the militants would still be capable of fighting a guerilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plotting or inspiring attacks on the West.

Three bombs killed 29 people across the capital on Saturday, and an attack near the southern city of Najaf on Sunday left seven policemen dead.

Among the victims of the attack yesterday, nine were women in a passing minibus. Their charred bodies were visible inside the burnt-out remains of the vehicle. Blood stained the ground nearby.

"The terrorists will attempt to attack civilians in order to make up for their losses, but we assure the Iraqi people and the world that we are able to end terrorism and shorten its life," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters after meeting visiting French President Francois Hollande.

Since the drive to recapture Mosul began on Oct 17, elite forces have retaken a quarter of the city in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Mr Abadi has said that the militant group will be driven out of the country by April.

As clashes continued in and around Mosul yesterday, ISIS also targeted military positions away from the main battlefield, killing at least 16 pro-government fighters and cutting a strategic road linking the city to Baghdad.

Militants attacked an army barracks near Baiji, 180km north of the capital, killing four soldiers and wounding 12 people, including Sunni tribal fighters, army and police sources said.

They seized weapons there and launched mortars at nearby Shirqat, forcing security forces to impose a curfew and close schools and offices in the town, according to local officials and security sources.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'At least 32 killed by Baghdad car bomb amid battle for Mosul'. Print Edition | Subscribe