Daesh attacks kill 74 in southern Iraq
BAGHDAD / NASIRIYAH, Iraq: Gunmen and suicide car bombers killed at least 74 people Thursday, including Iranians, near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, in an attack claimed by Daesh (ISIS).
The attackers struck at midday, opening fire on a restaurant before getting into a car and blowing themselves up at a nearby security checkpoint, officials said.
Abdel Hussein al-Jabri, deputy health chief for the mainly Shiite province of Dhiqar, said at least 74 people had died, including seven Iranians, and another 93 people were wounded. That was up from the previous toll of 52 dead and 91 wounded in what was already the deadliest Daesh attack in Iraq since pro-government forces drove the militants out of second city Mosul in July.
Security sources said the attackers were disguised as members of the AlHashd al-Shaabi, a mainly Shiite paramilitary alliance which has fought alongside the army and police against Daesh in northern Iraq.
Rescue workers and members of the security forces placed bodies in ambulances and cleared away rubble and the carcasses of burnt-out cars from the site.
Burned bodies and vehicles including buses and trucks testified to the violence of the attack. Shelters built of corrugated metal were reduced to scraps of metal, twisted by heat.
The area targeted is on a highway used by Shiite pilgrims and visitors from neighboring Iran to travel to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala further north, although Dhiqar has previously been spared the worst of Iraq’s violence.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement carried by its Amaq propaganda arm.
It said several suicide bombers had staged the assault on a restaurant and a security checkpoint, killing “dozens of Shiites.”
Security officials described Thursday’s attacks as an attempt to send a message to Daesh followers that the group is still strong and can operate in other parts of Iraq following its territorial losses.
“After losing the war in Iraq and the shrinking of its power, Daesh returned back to its old style of an insurgency, by carrying out suicide attacks, which is a clear sign that the terrorist group is retreating,” said police intelligence colonel Murtatha al-Yassiri.
Daesh activity is usually concentrated in western and northern Iraq. Bomb attacks in the mostly Shi’ite south, where the bulk of the country’s oil is produced and security forces hold a tighter grip, have so far been relatively rare.
Like its predecessor in Iraq, AlQaeda, Daesh seeks to create
sectarian tensions as a way to destabilize the OPEC oil producer. “We expect more alike terrorist operations in future. Daesh is trying to desperately pretend among followers that it’s still strong,” Yassiri said.
Adding to the pressure on the militants, Iraqi forces recaptured the city of Tal Afar and the surrounding region from Daesh on Aug. 31.
Thursday’s attacks come as Iraqi forces backed by tribal fighters closed in one of the last Daesh bastions in the country: the Al-Qaim area on the border with war-ravaged Syria. Wednesday, an AFP correspondent in that area saw several artillery units positioning themselves around the towns of Rawa and Anna, 100 kilometers from the border with Syria.
The group’s only other stronghold is Hawija, in Kirkuk province some 300 kilometers north of Baghdad. Daesh has suffered a string of defeats on the battlefields of both Iraq and Syria, leaving in tatters the cross-border “caliphate” it declared in 2014.
But despite these setbacks, the extremist group still has hundreds of fighters ready to carry out suicide attacks
In addition, any military offensive in Hawija is expected to be postponed due to a planned referendum on Kurdish independence on Sept. 25.
Acting at the request of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi Parliament Thursday sacked the governor of Kirkuk over his decision for the northern province to also take part in the Kurdish referendum. –
An Iraqi man inspects damage after gunmen and suicide car bombers killed dozens of people in two assaults claimed by Daesh near Nasiriyah.