Two massive bombings killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 115 in Baghdad, Iraqi officials said Tuesday, as Iraqi forces battle to completely purge ISIS out of Mosul.
In the deadliest of the two attacks, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a popular ice cream shop at around midnight (2100 GMT Monday)in the bustling Karrada neighborhood, killing at least 16 people and wounding 75.
In a statement, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
A closed-circuit camera captured the moment of the explosion, the video showing a busy downtown avenue, with cars driving down the street when the blast strikes. A huge fireball then engulfs a building, forcing the cars to scramble to get away. Other videos of the attack posted on social media show wounded and bloodied people crying for help on the sidewalk outside the ice cream parlor.
In the second attack, an explosives-laden car exploded during rush hour near the state-run Public Pension Office in Baghdad’s busy Shawaka area, killing at least 11 people and injuring 41, a police officer said.
In a second online statement, posted on a militant website commonly used by extremists, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its suicide bombers targeted gatherings of Shiites.
Battle for Mosul
The attacks in Baghdad come as ISIS militants are steadily losing more territory to US-backed Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul, a city that was the jihadist group’s most emblematic stronghold. The extremists are increasingly turning to insurgency-style terror attacks to detract from their losses.
Iraqi forces are more than seven months into the massive operation to retake the city from ISIS, and have already recaptured its whole east side and much of the west.
The attacks came just days into the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast during daylight hours. After sundown, families break their fast and Baghdad’s restaurants and cafes quickly fill up with people staying up long into the night.
During Ramadan last year, another section of Karrada was hit by massive suicide bombing that killed almost 300 people, the deadliest single attack in the Iraqi capital in 13 years of war. The attack was also claimed by ISIS.
Details of how the militants managed to stage Tuesday’s attacks were not immediately clear. After last year’s attack, Iraqi authorities stepped up security in Karrada, especially in the area of the bombing.
The United Nations has warned that up to 200,000 civilians who are believed to remain in ISIS-held areas of the city are in grave danger and that large numbers could flee.
“We are deeply concerned that right now, in the last final stages of the campaign to retake Mosul, that the civilians… in (ISIS) areas are probably at graver risk now than at any other stage of the campaign,” Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told AFP.
She said the UN estimates there are between 180,000 and 200,000 civilians in jihadist-held areas of Mosul, the majority of them in the Old City.
The area — a warren of closely spaced buildings and narrow streets — has posed a significant challenge to Iraqi forces.
Families who managed to flee ISIS-held areas have told the UN that food, water, and medicines are in short supply and that snipers fire on civilians who try to leave, Grande said.