Multiple jihadist attacks kill more than 30 in Iraq
BAGHDAD – Agence France-Presse
AFP photoJihadist gunmen and bombers killed at least 12 people in a busy market area of Baghdad, while a double blast at a cafe north of the Iraqi capital claimed another 20 lives.
An attack claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and involving suicide explosions, gunfights and hostage-taking wreaked chaos in the eastern neighborhood of Baghdad al-Jadida.
“A car came... gunmen came out of it and spread out. They started shooting, killing people, there were lots of dead people,” said a witness, Salman Hussein.
The shocked young man recounted how one of the attackers held a shop owner and spoke on a mobile phone before detonating his suicide belt.
“The car they came in was laden with explosives and also blew up,” he said.
The head of Baghdad Operations Command, Lieutenant General Abdelamir al-Shammari, insisted to reporters on the scene that the situation was quickly brought under control.
He denied reports by several officials in the Baghdad police and in the interior ministry that the attackers held several people hostage in the nearby Zahrat Baghdad mall.
But a senior police officer gave a different account, saying the attackers sprayed gunfire and blew up a car bomb on the street before entering the mall and taking hostages.
“When the security forces got too close, they killed three hostages,” he said. Several other sources gave a similar account.
Police and hospital sources put the casualty toll from the attack, one of the worst to hit Baghdad in months, at 12 dead and more than 30 wounded.
Almost simultaneously, bombings killed at least 20 people at a cafe in the town of Muqdadiyah northeast of Baghdad, security officers said.
A bomb exploded at the cafe and a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle after people gathered at the scene, a police captain and an army colonel said.
ISIL also claimed the Muqdadiyah attack and named the suicide bomber as Iraqi Abu Abdallah.
Four police officers killed
On Jan. 12, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a checkpoint north of Baghdad, wounding a senior intelligence officer and killing four police, security officials said.
The bomber attacked the convoy of Colonel Qassem al-Anbaki, the head of police intelligence in Diyala province, at a checkpoint, army and police officers said.
The blast in the Jdaidat al-Shatt area, south of Diyala capital Baquba, also killed four policemen, including a first lieutenant, and wounded nine other police, the officers said.
A doctor at Baquba General Hospital confirmed the toll.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but suicide bombings are a tactic frequently used by Sunni militants in Iraq, including ISIL.
The attack followed two blasts, one of them a suicide bombing, that targeted a cafe north of Baquba the day before, killing 20 people.
Meanwhile, at least seven Sunni mosques and dozens of shops in eastern Iraq were firebombed on Jan. 12, security sources and local officials said.
At least two Sunni mosques south of Baghdad were attacked last week after a Shi’ite cleric was executed in Saudi Arabia, triggering angry reactions in Iraq and neighboring Iran.