40 killed in ISIL raid on shrine in N Iraq
BAGHDADAn attack on a Shiite shrine in the north of Iraqi capital, which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed, has left 40 people dead and more than 70 others wounded.
In the attack on the evening of July 7, ISIL militants targeted the Sayyid Mohammed shrine in Balad, 70 kilometers north of Baghdad, Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahya Rasool told AFP.
The attack killed 40 people and wounded 74, Iraqi Health Ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Rudaini said.
The shrine was attacked with mortar fire, then by suicide bombers wearing security force uniforms, Rasool said.
Security forces fired on the bombers, who were not able to enter the shrine, and two of them blew themselves up, while a third was shot dead, he said.
The attack sparked a fire that caused heavy damage to the market near the shrine, an AFP journalist reported.
ISIL issued a statement claiming the attack, saying that five jihadists took part, killing guards at the shrine, then clashing with Iraqi forces for hours before detonating explosives they were carrying.
The ISIL statement did not mention mortar fire.
“It is clear the cowardly attack on the shrine aims to spark sectarian tensions and drag Iraq back to the dark days of sectarian conflict,” Jan Kubis, the U.N.’s top Iraq envoy, said in a statement.
Hours after this attack, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sacked three Baghdad security chiefs following a devastating bombing in the capital last week, his office said on July 8.
ISIL said it carried out the July 3 bombing in Baghdad which killed 292 people, one of the deadliest to ever hit Iraq.
A suicide bomber blew up a minibus packed with explosives in a Baghdad shopping district teeming with people ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, sparking widespread anger against the government.
Iraqi interior minister tendered his resignation after the bombing, but the July 8 statement was the first announcing that officials were fired following the attack.
Abadi issued “an order to relieve the Baghdad Operations commander of his position,” as well as remove the officials responsible for intelligence and security in the capital, his office said, according to AFP.
The head of the Baghdad Operations Command was Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Shimmari.