BAGHDAD: Firefighters and rescuers gather at the scene of the suicide attack on Sunday.—Reuters
BAGHDAD: Firefighters and rescuers gather at the scene of the suicide attack on Sunday.—Reuters

BAGHDAD: A suicide car bombing claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group ripped through a busy Baghdad shopping district on Sunday, killing at least 119 people in the deadliest attack this year in Iraq’s capital.

The blast hit the Karrada district early in the day as the area was packed with people shopping ahead of Eid.

It came a week after Iraqi security forces recaptured Fallujah from IS, leaving Mosul as the only Iraqi city under the militant group’s control. The bombing also wounded more than 140 people, security officials said.

Prime Minister Haider al Abadi visited the site of the attack and vowed “punishment” for its perpetrators, his office said.

The blast set buildings ablaze, and firemen were still working to extinguish it some 12 hours later.

Men carried the bodies of two victims out of one burned building and a crowd of people looked on from the rubble-filled street as firefighters worked at the site.

Hussein Ali, a 24-year-old former soldier, said six workers at his family’s shop were killed, their bodies burned so badly that they could not be identified.

“I will return to the battlefront. At least there I know the enemy so I can fight him. But here, I don’t know who I’m fighting,” Ali said.

IS issued a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing, saying it was carried out by an Iraqi as part of the group’s “ongoing security operations”.

The militant group said that the blast targeted Iraq’s Shias.

UN Iraq envoy Jan Kubich condemned the “cowardly and heinous act of unparalelled proportions,” calling on authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

Officials said another explosion in the Shaab area of northern Baghdad killed at least one person and wounded four on Sunday, but the cause of the blast was disputed.

US National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said the attacks “only strengthen our resolve to support Iraqi security forces as they continue to take back territory” from IS.

Bombings in the capital have decreased since IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in June 2014, with the militants apparently occupied with operations elsewhere. But the group has struck back against Iraqi civilians after suffering military setbacks.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2016

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