IS bomber hits Shi­ite mourn­ers in Bagh­dad

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A suicide bomber struck a gath­er­ing of Shi­ite mourn­ers in Bagh­dad yes­ter­day, killing at least four peo­ple and wound­ing an­other 12, Iraqi of­fi­cials said, as gov­ern­ment troops pre­pared for a de­ci­sive bat­tle to drive the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group from the ma­jor north­ern city of Mo­sul. The at­tack took place in Bagh­dad’s Shi­ite-dom­i­nated Jadriyah neigh­bor­hood on the Ti­gris River, where the ex­plo­sive­laden bomber approached Shi­ites com­mem­o­rat­ing the 7th cen­tury death of Imam Hus­sein, the grand­son of the Prophet Muham­mad, a po­lice of­fi­cer said.

A med­i­cal of­fi­cial con­firmed the toll. Both of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity as they were not au­tho­rized to re­lease in­for­ma­tion to the press. The IS mil­i­tants claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bomb­ing in a state­ment car­ried by the IS-linked Aa­maq news agency. The claim could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied. The group swept through a swath of Iraq in June 2014 and took con­trol of sig­nif­i­cant ar­eas in the north and west.

Along with parts of Syria, it de­clared an Is­lamic caliphate that cov­ers nearly a third of each coun­try. But since late last year, the mil­i­tants have suf­fered bat­tle­fields loses and their power has shrunk to the north­ern city of Mo­sul, Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city lo­cated about 360 kilo­me­ters (225 miles) north­west of Bagh­dad, along with small towns in the coun­try’s north and west. Iraq is now gear­ing up for a ma­jor bat­tle with IS for Mo­sul, an op­er­a­tion that is ex­pected to be the most com­plex yet for Iraq’s mil­i­tary, which is still re­build­ing from its hu­mil­i­at­ing 2014 de­feat.

The “op­er­a­tion to lib­er­ate Mo­sul will start very soon in the com­ing few days,” Brig Gen Haider Fad­hil told The As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view. Fad­hil said more than 25,000 troops, in­clud­ing para­mil­i­tary forces made up of Sunni tribal fight­ers and Shi­ite mili­tias, will take part in the of­fen­sive that will be launched from five di­rec­tions around the city. In ad­di­tion to car­ry­ing out airstrikes, the US-led in­ter­na­tional coali­tion will also of­fer ar­tillery fire, he added.

Ac­cord­ing to UN es­ti­mates, up to 1 mil­lion peo­ple could be dis­placed from Mo­sul dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, ex­ac­er­bat­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try. The con­flict in Iraq has forced 3.3 mil­lion peo­ple to flee their homes, with most of them liv­ing in camps or in­for­mal set­tle­ments. Fad­hil voiced con­cern about po­ten­tial action from Turk­ish troops based in the re­gion of Bashiqa, north­east of Mo­sul. Turkey sent troops to the area late last year to train anti-IS fight­ers there. But Bagh­dad has seen the Turk­ish pres­ence as a “bla­tant vi­o­la­tion” of Iraqi sovereignty and has de­manded the Turk­ish troops with­draw, a call Ankara has ig­nored. — AP

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