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Scores Are Killed as a Wave of Bombings Bloodies Baghdad

In a burst of attacks recalling Iraq's sectarian civil war, three bombings in three different neighborhoods of Baghdad killed more than 90 people on Wednesday and wounded scores more, the Iraqi authorities said.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the biggest attack, in a crowded food market in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in northern Baghdad. Explosives hidden in a parked pickup truck loaded with fruit and vegetables detonated around 10 a.m., killing at least 66 people and wounding 87 others.

The other two bombings were reported at a police checkpoint in the Kadhmiya neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, where 17 were killed, and at another police checkpoint in the Jamiya neighborhood in central Baghdad, where nine died.

Blood covered the ground at the market in Sadr City, with clothing and slippers, apparently from the victims, scattered throughout the market. At least 30 shops were damaged and as many as 20 cars were burned or destroyed.

The death toll from the attack rose steadily through the day. In the late afternoon, Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the Security and Defense Committee of the Iraqi Parliament, said the number of dead in the Sadr City attack could be as high as 95.

The market is especially busy in the morning. Witnesses said the man driving the truck that exploded had waited in a line of vehicles to enter the market. After parking, he left, and the vehicle exploded about five minutes later, according to Murtadha Ali, 55, who was in the area at the time.

Another witness, Ahmed Ali, 26, criticized the response by emergency workers. "The reaction of the ambulances was slow and weak," he said.

Among the scores of victims were at least 14 women and 10 children, according to Iraqi officials.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated on social media accounts. The Sunni terrorist group, also known as ISIS, , ISIL or Daesh, has often aimed at Shiite communities -- Sadr City is one of Iraq's largest.

The office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi denounced the attack, saying in a statement that "the latest explosions will not stop us from fighting Daesh."

Iraqi forces, backed by airstrikes from the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State and by Shiite-dominated paramilitary forces, have regained some territory seized by the Islamic State in 2014. Those forces have been unable to stop the terrorist group from mounting attacks in the heart of Baghdad, however.

In February, Iraqi security forces announced plans to build a wall around Baghdad in an effort to prevent further attacks.

Iraq has been in a political crisis in recent months. On April 30, demonstrators stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone and occupied Parliament, demanding an end to sectarian quotas in politics, a fight against corruption and improved governance.

The protesters were mostly supporters of the powerful Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Sadr City is named after his father, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr.

After the explosion in Sadr City on Wednesday, protesters gathered there, chanting that they would not back down from their demands for change.

Mr. Zamili, the member of Parliament, lamented the government's failure to protect citizens from terrorist attacks, saying it showed far more concern for protecting the Green Zone than for protecting innocent civilians in neighborhoods like Sadr City. The Green Zone is the government stronghold that is off limits to ordinary Iraqis.

An officer at the Kadhmiya police checkpoint, Ali Ahmed, said his shift had just ended and he and his fellow officers were heading to their barracks when he heard a loud explosion and saw a big fire at the checkpoint.

He said some of his colleagues had been killed and he saw the dead bodies of several civilians who were trapped in their cars at the checkpoint when the explosion occurred.

"Me and my colleagues began to carry the killed and injured, and the ambulances arrived to carry the killed and injured," Mr. Ahmed said. "It was a terrible, shocking view, and I'm shocked and psychologically broken because of what happened."

There have been two huge and deadly explosions in Sadr City since last summer. On Aug. 13, a truck bomb devastated a food market in the district. On Feb. 28, a pair of bombers attacked another market there. In both cases, dozens of people died and the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

[Source: By Falih Hassan and Omar Al-Jawoshy, The New York Times, Baghdad, 11May16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 20May16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.