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Twin suicide bombing kills 70 in Baghdad’s deadliest attack this year

By Reuters - Feb 29,2016 - Last updated at Feb 29,2016

BAGHDAD — A twin suicide bombing claimed by the Daesh terror group killed 70 people in a Shiite district of Baghdad on Sunday in the deadliest attack inside the capital this year, as militants launched an assault on its western outskirts.

Police sources said the suicide bombers were riding motorcycles and blew themselves up in a crowded mobile phone market in Sadr City, wounding more than 100 people in addition to the dead.

A Reuters witness saw pools of blood on the ground with slippers, shoes and mobile phones at the site of the blasts, which was sealed off to prevent further attacks.

In a statement circulated online, Daesh said it was responsible for the blasts: "Our swords will not cease to cut off the heads of the rejectionist polytheists, wherever they are," it said, using derogatory terms for Shiite Muslims.

Iraqi forces backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition have driven Daesh back in the western Anbar province recently and are preparing for an offensive to retake the northern city of Mosul.

But the militants are still able to strike outside territory they control, often targeting members of Iraq's Shiite majority, most recently on Thursday when two Daesh suicide bombers killed 15 people at a mosque in the capital.

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said the attacks were in response to Daesh’s recent defeats: “This gang targeted civilians after it lost the initiative and its dregs fled the battlefield before our proud fighters,” he said on his official Facebook page.

At dawn on Sunday, suicide bombers and gunmen attacked Iraqi security forces in Abu Ghraib, seizing positions in a grain silo and a cemetery, and killing at least 17 members of the security forces, officials said.

Security officials blamed Daesh militants, and a news agency that supports the group said it had launched a “wide attack” in Abu Ghraib, 25km from the centre of Baghdad and next to the international airport.

Footage circulated online by the Amaq news agency appeared to show Daesh militants crouching behind dirt berms and launching the attack with automatic rifles, machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades. Reuters could not verify the video’s authenticity.

Security forces had mostly regained control by Sunday evening but officials said there were still clashes.

Baghdad-based security analyst Jasim Al Bahadli said the assault suggested it was premature to declare that Daesh was losing the initiative in Iraq.

“Government forces must do a better job repelling attacks launched by Daesh. What happened today could be a setback for the security forces,” he said.

 

Counteroffensive

 

Army and police sources said the militants had attacked from the nearby Daesh-controlled areas of Garma and Fallujah, driving Humvees and pickup trucks fixed with machineguns.

A curfew was imposed as a regiment of Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces was mobilised to retake the silo in Abu Ghraib and prevent the militants approaching the nearby airport, security officials said.

Iraqi army helicopters bombarded Daesh positions in the and Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan said at least 20 militants had been killed in the government’s counter offensive.

 

Fighters from the Hashid Shaabi, a coalition of mainly Iranian-backed Shiite militias, were mobilised to Abu Ghraib to reinforce regular government forces in the area, said Jawad Al Tulaibawi, a local Hashid commander.

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