Wave of bombings hits Baghdad Shiite areas

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BAGHDAD — A wave of bombings struck outdoor markets and a restaurant in Shiite-dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 69 people, officials said — the latest in deadly militant attacks far from the front lines in the country’s north and west where Iraqi forces are battling the Islamic State group.

In an online statement, IS claimed responsibility only for the deadliest bombing of the day, which took place in Baghdad’s northeastern Shaab neighborhood and where at least 34 people were killed and 75 others were wounded.

In that attack, a roadside bomb first exploded outside the concrete blast walls surrounding the open-air market, followed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up as people gathered to help the victims of the first explosion, a police officer said.

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The IS statement said the attack was carried out by an Iraqi who targeted members of Shiite militias. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statement but it was posted on a militant website commonly used by extremists.

Tuesday’s bombings were just the latest in a wave of attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas that has left more than 200 dead over the past week. The attacks, many claimed by IS, come as the group has lost significant chunks of territory to Iraqi ground forces over the past year.

As the Islamic State militants are pushed back along front lines, the group is increasingly turning to insurgency-style attacks to detract from their losses, Iraqi and coalition officials say.

Iraq is also in the midst of a political crisis that has gridlocked the country’s government. While Iraqi security officials say they are concerned political instability is distracting from the fight against IS, some analysts say the extremist group is launching the attacks at a time of political crisis in an attempt to further delegitimize the Iraqi government.

Shortly after the Shaab attack, a parked car bomb struck a fruit-and-vegetable market in the Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Dora, in southern Baghdad, killing eight people and wounding 22 others, a police officer said.

In Baghdad’s sprawling eastern Shiite district of Sadr City, a suicide car bombing hit a crowded outdoor market, killing 18 people and wounding 35 others. In northeast Baghdad, a suicide bomber targeted a restaurant in the Habibiya neighborhood, killing nine and wounding 18.