Baghdad: A car bombing claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group killed at least 52 people at a market in a Shiite area of north Baghdad today, officials said.
The blast, the single deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital this year, comes as the government is locked in a political crisis that some have warned could undermine the fight against IS.
The bombing, which hit the Sadr City area at around 10:00 am, also wounded at least 65 people, the officials said. The blast set nearby shops on fire and left debris including the charred, twisted remains of a vehicle in the street.
Dozens of angry people gathered at the scene of the bombing, blaming the government for the carnage.
“The state is in a conflict over (government positions) and the people are the victims,” said a man named Abu Ali, adding: “The politicians are behind the explosion.”
Abu Muntadhar echoed his anger. “The state is responsible for the bombings that hit civilians,” he said. The politicians “should all get out.” Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who spearheaded a protest movement demanding a cabinet reshuffle and other reforms, has a huge following in the working class neighbourhood of Sadr City, which was named after his father.
IS issued an online statement claiming responsibility for the attack. It said a suicide bomber it identified as “Abu Sulaiman al-Ansari” detonated the explosives-rigged vehicle.
IS, which overran large areas in 2014, considers Shiites, who make up the majority of Iraq’s population, to be heretics and often targets them with bombings. Iraqi forces have regained significant ground from IS, but the jihadists still control a large part of western Iraq, and are able to carry out frequent bombings in government-held areas.
Iraq’s legislature has been paralysed by a political crisis over replacing the cabinet that the United States and the UN have warned could undermine the fight against IS.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sought to replace the cabinet of party-affiliated ministers with a government of technocrats, a move opposed by powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.
Angry demonstrators broke into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and stormed parliament after lawmakers again failed to approve new ministers last month. While the protesters withdrew the following day, parliament has still yet to hold another session. (AFP)