Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Truck Bomb Kills 67 at Baghdad Market

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Truck Bomb Kills 67 at Baghdad Market

Article excerpt

BAGHDAD - In one of the deadliest single attacks in postwar Baghdad, a truck bomb shattered a popular fruit-and-vegetable market in a teeming Shiite neighborhood Thursday, killing 67 people and wounding more than 150 others. Militants from the self-described Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing that incinerated much of the Jameela market in the district of Sadr City. The dead and wounded were carried away in blood-soaked blankets and garbage bags amid the charred and twisted stalls and spilled produce.

The Sunni extremist group, which holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria, said it targeted a gathering place for Shiites and vowed more attacks. It often attacks military checkpoints or predominantly Shiite areas with the goal of undermining confidence in the government's security efforts.

When it launched its major onslaught across northern Iraq last year, the Islamic State group vowed to continue on to Baghdad, but a mobilization of volunteer Shiite fighters deterred any significant attacks on the capital at that time.

For the past two weeks, thousands of Iraqis have staged protests calling on the government to take a firm stance against corruption and reckless spending. Many see the corruption in the security forces as a major cause for its failures.

This week, the government approved a reform plan by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that includes taking some money that was to go to individual officials and redirecting it to strengthening the Interior and Defense ministries.

While attacks are common in Baghdad, Thursday's was the deadliest single bombing in the capital since the height of Iraq's sectarian bloodletting in 2006-07. More than 200 people were killed in a 2006 attack by a series of car bombs and mortar rounds that struck Sadr City. That prompted the government to implement a 24-hour curfew in Baghdad that remained in effect, on-and-off, until earlier this year, when al-Abadi lifted it to try to return some semblance of normal life in the capital.

In another major attack in Sadr City in 2013, two suicide bombers hit a cluster of funeral tents packed with mourning families, killing 72 people. Another 20 people were killed elsewhere in Iraq that day.

In Thursday's attack, police said the attackers put the explosives in a refrigeration truck so that it fit in with other vehicles delivering supplies to the market, the main center for produce and food sales in Baghdad. The bomb was detonated shortly after dawn.

Hassan Hamid said he was driving his minibus near the area when the force of the blast threw his vehicle about 30 feet away and onto the sidewalk.

"This is the strongest explosion I've ever seen in my life," said the 37-year-old father of three, speaking from his hospital bed where he was treated for shrapnel wounds. "I saw some cars were thrown into the sky and a fire erupted all over the place. …

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