BAGHDAD — In celebrations for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan stretched past midnight into Sunday in central Baghdad, where Iraqis had gathered to eat, shop and just be together, a minivan packed with explosives blew up and killed over 140 people which said to be the third mass slaughter across three countries in less than a week.
The attack was said to be the most deadly in history and was among the worst faced by Iraq. The bombing came just a week after Iraqi security forces, backed by American airstrikes, celebrated the liberation of Falluja from the Islamic State, and the claimed responsibility for the attack.
The bombing brought an abrupt end to the brief victory lap that Iraq’s beleaguered prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, was enjoying after the recapture of Falluja. Mr. Abadi rose to power in 2014, and it was said that the Obama administration had hoped that he could reunite the country after the divisive tenure of his immediate predecessor, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whose sectarian policies were blamed for the rise of the Islamic State.
The bombing site still experience fires blazed on Sunday. Hospitals tried to identify charred bodies, workers sorted through the rubble searching for more victims, and the first coffins were on their way to the holy city of Najaf and its vast cemetery, always expanding, where Iraq’s Shiites bury their dead. By Sunday evening, a worker at the cemetery said more than 70 bodies had arrived, and many more were expected on Monday.
According to the New York Times – NYT, less than two days earlier, two police officers and 20 hostages, many of them foreigners, were killed after gunmen invaded a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Islamic State claimed to be behind that attack.
In Turkey, the authorities blamed the Islamic State for a coordinated suicide attack on Istanbul’s main airport that killed more than 40 people, although the terrorist group has not claimed responsibility.
Many of the victims in Baghdad on Sunday were children; the explosives detonated near a three-story complex of restaurants and stores where families were celebrating the end of the school year, residents said to NYT.
Ali Ahmed, 25, who owns a shop close to where the bomb went off, said that in the aftermath, knowing how many children were inside a shopping mall that was hit, he had begun yelling: “The kids upstairs! The kids upstairs! Save them!”
“But the firefighters arrived too late,” Mr. Ahmed said.
Later, he helped carry the bodies of children out of the rubble. He voiced anger at the security forces for failing to stop the bomber, and questioned why the street, which had been closed off earlier in the evening, was reopened around midnight.
When Mr. Abadi visited the bombing site on Sunday morning, people threw rocks and shoes at his convoy and yelled, “Thief!” The epithet was directed as much at Iraq’s dysfunctional and corrupt political class as it was at the prime minister.
Some of the residents said they were glad to stone Mr. Abadi who visited the scene and they all show him that the people reject him and his political power. One can easily say that it’s as a result of bad leadership and corrupt political class that lead to the result of Baghdad attack.