ISIL kills 32 people in Baghdad attack
BAGHDADThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack that killed at least 32 people on Jan. 2 in Baghdad.
The jihadist organization took responsibility for the blast in Sadr City via its propaganda agency Amaq, claiming the “martyrdom operation” had killed around 40 people.
Iraqi police sources told AFP that at least 32 people were killed and more than 60 wounded when an explosives-laden vehicle went off on a square in the Sadr City.
Many of the victims were daily laborers waiting for jobs at an intersection in Sadr City, a sprawling majority Shiite neighborhood in the northeast of the capital that has been repeatedly targeted.
At least 27 people were killed by twin explosions in a busy market area in central Baghdad on Dec. 31, 2016, in what was the deadliest such attack in the Iraqi capital in two months. ISIL also claimed that attack.
The caliphate ISIL proclaimed in 2014 is shrinking steadily and jihadist fighters are defending Mosul, their last major urban stronghold in Iraq against U.S.-led coalition-backed Iraqi forces.
French President Françoise Hollande, who visited Iraq on Jan. 2, in order to visit French soldiers training Iraqi forces and also meetings, said Western support for military action against ISIL was key to preventing attacks at home.
France, one of the most active members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Sunni extremist group, is particularly concerned over the return of a large contingent of French jihadists from Syria and Iraq.
“Taking action against terrorism here in Iraq is also preventing acts of terrorism on our own soil,” Hollande said at a base where French soldiers have been training elite Iraqi forces.
Hollande, the only major Western head of state to have visited Baghdad since the coalition was set up in 2014, stressed that supporting Iraq was one of the surest ways of securing Europe.
Of European countries targeted by terror attacks claimed or inspired by ISIL, France has been the worst hit, but attacks have also been carried out in Belgium and Germany.
Besides the defeated jihadist fighters who are expected to return to Europe in the coming months, radicalized children who grew up in the “caliphate” IS proclaimed in 2014 are also seen as ticking bombs.
“We will have to deal with the issue of the return of foreign fighters... who committed crimes, who brought their families with them, including in some cases very young children,” Hollande said.
Since it joined the United States in the coalition in September 2014, France says its warplanes have conducted 5,700 sorties, around 1,000 strikes and destroyed more than 1,700 targets.
France has 14 Rafale fighter jets that are stationed in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates and taking part in coalition operations.
It also has 500 soldiers training and advising elite Iraqi forces and CAESAR artillery vehicles stationed south of Mosul to provide support for ongoing operations to retake the city.
Hollande met Iraqi President Fuad Masum, a Kurd, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, from the largest Shiite political bloc, and called for reconciliation and unity after ISIL is defeated.
Meanwhile, a top Iraqi commander said that Iraqi forces have retaken more than 60 percent of eastern Mosul from ISIL since the battle for the city began in mid-October 2016.
“From east Mosul... more than 60 percent” has been recaptured from ISIL, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a top commander in Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told AFP.
He was speaking in an area southeast of Mosul, the city where ISIL proclaimed a cross-border “caliphate” in June 2014 after overrunning it and swathes of other Iraqi territory.