ISIS blasts kill dozens at fam­ily gath­er­ings in Iraq

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WORLD - BY RUS­SELL GOLD­MAN

The de­tails are eerily fa­mil­iar: a fam­ily out­ing, a sui­cide bomber, more than a dozen peo­ple — many of them chil­dren — killed in an at­tack later claimed by the Is­lamic State.

An ex­plo­sion early Tues­day at an ice­cream parlor in Bagh­dad shared many of the same heart-wrench­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics as last week’s at­tack at a sta­dium in Manch­ester, Eng­land. And that was just the start of the vi­o­lence Tues­day, in a city where these kinds of ter­ror­ist at­tacks have been no­tably more fre­quent this year.

First, the Is­lamic State tar­geted the pop­u­lar Al Faqma shop in the central Kar­rada neigh­bor­hood, where fam­i­lies had gath­ered to cel­e­brate if­tar and break their day­long fast dur­ing the holy month of Ra­madan.

On most nights dur­ing Ra­madan, when tem­per­a­tures can top 100 de­grees, whole fam­i­lies can be found un­der the shop’s wa­ter-mist­ing fans, eat­ing ice cream from wafer cups.

That nightly respite was abruptly ended Tues­day, just af­ter mid­night, when Is­lamic State mil­i­tants re­motely det­o­nated a car rigged with ex­plo­sives and parked near the shop, Iraqi authorities told re­porters. Closed­cir­cuit video cap­tured the mo­ment an enor­mous fire­ball erupted along a busy thor­ough­fare.

The bomb­ing killed 17 peo­ple and left 32 oth­ers wounded, ac­cord­ing to the authorities. Of the vic­tims, three were chil­dren, ages 4, 6 and 8.

“We were ex­pect­ing to be tar­geted soon or later be­cause Kar­rada had been the fa­vorite area for ter­ror­ists to im­ple­ment their at­tacks,” said Mustafa Alji­bour, the shop’s man­ager. “This ice cream shop has been a place for all Iraqis no mat­ter where they are from. It was turned from a very beau­ti­ful place into a dark hell af­ter the at­tack.”

Videos posted to so­cial me­dia af­ter the at­tack show a scene of chaos, with bod­ies strewn across the shop’s col­or­ful benches. In one, a lit­tle girl walks seem­ingly dazed through the car­nage.

Hours later, the Is­lamic State, of­ten re­ferred to as ISIS, struck again at the heart of Bagh­dad — this time dur­ing evening rush Tues­day, as peo­ple were fin­ish­ing their shop­ping be­fore the if­tar feast­ing. Fourteen peo­ple were killed and 34 were wounded when a bomb went off out­side a govern­ment pen­sion of­fice.

Pho­tos taken af­ter the at­tack show the charred wreck­age of burned­out au­to­mo­biles and a wa­ter­melon seller’s de­stroyed goods.

The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tacks in two sep­a­rate posts to a so­cial me­dia chan­nel the group typ­i­cally uses. Even as the group has lost ter­ri­tory in Iraq, it has in­creased the in­ten­sity of its strikes, of­ten against Shi­ite civil­ians. Tues­day, the group con­firmed it had cho­sen its lat­est tar­gets be­cause they were known gath­er­ing places for Shi­ites.

Later Tues­day, as word spread of four more at­tacks through­out the coun­try, mourn­ers, many of them women, were seen at the sites of the two Bagh­dad at­tacks.

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