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Iraq blast: 30 dead, 50 wounded near Shiite shrine north of Baghdad

Two of the bombers blew themselves up in a market next to the shrine while the third was killed and his explosive belt defused. (Representative image) Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Baghdad, Iraq Jul 08, 2016, 01.24 AM (IST)
Islamic State group militants killed 30 people at a Shiite shrine north of Baghdad, striking the area with suicide bombers, gunfire and mortar rounds, an Iraqi security spokesman said today. 

The overnight attack also wounded 50 people, the Joint Operations Command spokesman said in a statement. The Sayyid Mohammed shrine was first targetted with mortar rounds, after which suicide bombers arrived at the shrine and opened fire, the statement said.

Two of the bombers then blew themselves up in a market next to the shrine while the third was killed and his explosive belt defused, it said, without specifying which forces killed the bomber.

The attack in the Balad area, located 70 kilometres north of Baghdad, came just five days after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged minibus in the capital, killing 292 people. That blast was one of the deadliest bombings to hit Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which set the stage for 13 years of bloody violence.

The Baghdad bombing was claimed by the Islamic State group, which overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but has since lost significant ground to Iraqi forces. In response to the battlefield setbacks, the group has hit back against civilians, and experts have warned there may be more bombings as the jihadists continue to lose ground.


After the bombs

Health minister Hamoud said the bodies of 115 killed in the Sunday bombing attack had now been handed over to families, while the identities of 177 others have yet to be determined.

The blast also wounded 200 people, said the minister, who on Tuesday told AFP that the process of identifying the unknown dead - which she put at 150 at the time - was expected to take 15-45 days.

People have been furious over delays in determining the fate of their loved ones, and with the number of unidentified bodies now bigger, it may take even longer.


Lack of emergency exits

The attack has overshadowed what would normally be a joyful holiday for Iraqi Muslims, instead turning it into a time of mourning and sadness. Investigators now believe they know what caused the attack to claim so many lives.

Police major general Talib Khalil Rahi said the suicide bomber detonated a minibus loaded with plastic explosives and ammonium nitrate. The initial blast killed a limited number of people, but flames spread and trapped people inside shopping centres that lacked emergency exits, Rahi told a news conference in Baghdad.

The raging fires have made it difficult to identify the dead. Interior minister Mohammed Ghabban tendered his resignation following the bombing, and authorities also announced the execution of five convicts and the arrest of 40 jihadists in an apparent bid to limit the fallout from the attack.

An official in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office told AFP on Wednesday that the premier had accepted the minister's resignation, though there has been no official statement from him on the matter.

Sunday's bombing was claimed by IS, which has its roots in the insurgency that began after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the 2003 US-led invasion. IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant territory from the jihadists.

In response to the battlefield setbacks, the Sunni extremist group has hit back against civilians, and experts have warned there may be more bombings as the jihadists continue to lose ground.

(AFP)
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