At least 149 Iraqi civilians are dead and 192 others are injured after a suicide bomber detonated a refrigerator truck in the Karrada shopping district of Baghdad.
The blast set off a blaze that quickly engulfed both of the surrounding Hadi and Laith shopping centers leaving civilians stranded inside and on the roof of the building screaming for help as firefighters outside were working to battle the blaze and rescue them. A senior Iraqi health ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information has indicated that health officials expect the death toll to climb as many of those injured suffered severe burns and are still in critical condition.
Over half of those killed Sunday died in the fire that followed the blast, the health official said. More than 80 percent of them were younger than 30, he said, as the area is a popular gathering place for young people. About 25 succumbed to their injures in the burn unit of the Baghdad Medical City hospital, according to another health official. At least 15 children were killed in the attack, the Associated Press reported.
“THE STREET WAS FULL OF LIFE LAST NIGHT, AND NOW THE SMELL OF DEATH IS ALL OVER THE PLACE”
This attack came just hours after many families had broken their fast to celebrate the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and amid a spate of increased Islamic State activity around the world that has left 44 dead and 147 wounded in Istanbul, 22 dead in Dhaka, and arguably another 49 dead and dozens of others injured in Orlando. It appears that this attack was planned with an intent to cause maximum loss of life – a common theme of attacks carried out by the Islamic State group and their sympathizers.
Many coffee shops and surrounding restaurants were crowded as sports enthusiasts gathered to watch the semifinals of the Euro 2016 soccer match. “The street was full of life last night, and now the smell of death is all over the place,” said Gaith Ali, 26, whose apartment windows were blown out in the explosion.
Sources indicate that the Karadda shopping district has been targeted multiple times by Islamic State terrorists and residents say that the street was closed just hours earlier because of intelligence that indicated a potential terrorist threat – however it was reopened about an hour later giving IS an opening to carry out their planned attack.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has declared three days of mourning for the victims. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, saying it had targeted Shiite Muslims. The militants have have been forced out of nearly half the territory they once controlled in Iraq, most recently being pushed out of their stronghold of Fallujah, just 45 miles west of the capital.
A second explosion struck in eastern Baghdad shortly after the Karrada bombing, but there were conflicting reports on whether it was a bombing. Local media said that five people were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated. Iraq’s Interior Ministry says it was an accident caused by an exploding air-conditioning unit.
While Baghdad has suffered numerous bombings at the hands of the Islamic State militants, Sunday’s was the single deadliest to hit the Iraqi capital since IS formed in 2013 and the worst attack the country has seen since a truck bomb blew up in a market in the eastern province of Diyala last July, killing 130 people.
[Updated 7/4/2016 to reflect an increase in death toll from 120 to 142 and decrease in injured from 200 to 185]
[Updated 7/4/2016 to reflect increased death toll of 149 and increased injured to 192]