At least 45 peo­ple

At­tack seen as di­ver­sion as Iraqis con­tinue bat­tle to eject ISIS from Mo­sul

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY MUSTAFA SALIM AND KA­REEM FAHIM

were killed in a bomb­ing at a Bagh­dad car mar­ket de­scribed as an ISIS di­ver­sion ahead of a bat­tle in the city of Mo­sul.

bagh­dad — At least 45 peo­ple were killed and dozens more in­jured when a bomb det­o­nated Thurs­day evening at a pop­u­lar car mar­ket in south­west­ern Bagh­dad, the dead­li­est in a se­ries of re­cent at­tacks in the Iraqi cap­i­tal blamed on the Is­lamic State mil­i­tant group, the In­te­rior Min­istry said.

A min­istry spokesman said the bomb was placed in a parked car at the mar­ket in the Bayaa neigh­bor­hood, be­tween Bagh­dad In­ter­na­tional Air­port and the Ti­gris River. The Is­lamic State as­serted re­spon­si­bil­ity in a brief state­ment cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia.

The at­tack was at least the third bomb­ing in the cap­i­tal in as many days, and it ap­peared to be aimed at di­vert­ing the gov­ern­ment as it pre­pares an of­fen­sive to drive the Is­lamic State from the north­ern city of Mo­sul, the mil­i­tants’ last ma­jor strong­hold in Iraq.

The Iraqi gov­ern­ment has spent years and un­told sums try­ing to secure Bagh­dad, us­ing check­points, blast walls and other mea­sures, but mil­i­tants have con­sis­tently found ways through, car­ry­ing out small-scale at­tacks with an alarm­ing fre­quency and mass killings at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. In Novem­ber, an ex­plo­sion killed at least 70 peo­ple, most of them Ira­nian pil­grims, at a gas sta­tion south of Bagh­dad in an at­tack claimed by the Is­lamic State.

Mush­taq Talib, a 28-year-old den­tist who lives about 21/ miles

2 from the car mar­ket, said the ex­plo­sion shook his house. The mar­ket was crowded, as is typ­i­cal on Thurs­days and Fri­days, with peo­ple vis­it­ing used-car shops and driv­ing their own ve­hi­cles to the area, hop­ing for a sale.

Soon af­ter the ex­plo­sion, Talib rushed to the scene, which he said had been se­cured by a sin­gle check­point be­fore the at­tack, staffed by po­lice of­fi­cers.

“It was hor­ri­ble,” he said, “dead bod­ies and body parts ev­ery­where. They were all civil­ians.”

Cars not dis­abled by the blast were used to ferry the wounded to the hospi­tal as oth­ers waited for am­bu­lances to ar­rive.

Videos of the bomb­ing that cir­cu­lated on the In­ter­net showed large-scale dam­age and ter­ri­ble scenes: a line of white minibuses in flames, fire­fight­ers stum­bling from one fire to the next and bod­ies ev­ery­where, dis­fig­ured on the ground or bun­dled into a crude wheel­bar­row with some­one’s arm dan­gling over the side.

“Th­ese are the Iraqi peo­ple,” a man, wail­ing, can be heard say­ing over and over in one of the video clips. In an­other video, a boy shouts that his fa­ther was ly­ing un­der his food cart. It was not clear whether the man was alive.

Fahim re­ported from Is­tan­bul.

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