A suicide bomber has killed at least 14 People in Baghdad. It is one of several attacks following the lifting of a decade-old curfew in the capital, imposed in the chaos that ensued after the 2003 US invasion.
Police said the bomber detonated on Aden Square Monday. The blast in Kadhimiyah, home to a revered Shiite shrine, also wounded at least 43 people.
A bomb also exploded in the Shiite-majority Husseiniyah area near Baghdad Monday, killing at least two and wounding seven. No group claimed responsibility in the immediate aftermath, but militants allied with Sunni Muslim extremist groups such as the “Islamic State” (IS) tend to employ suicide bombings against Shiites in Iraq.
US Secretary of State Jorn Kerry said on Sunday that the international anti-IS coalition had recaptured 22 percent of the areas the group held in Iraq and Syria. However, he admitted the group continued to have success with suicide attacks, which are harder to plan against or prevent militarily. Still, Kerry seemed upbeat about the prognosis for beating back the group, saying that the international coalition had recaptured the territory without the launch of a major offensive and also “taken out a significant proportion” of top IS leadership and hit its command and control facilities.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had lifted a midnight-5 a.m. curfew in place in Baghdad in various forms since 2004, when Iraq fell into violent chaos following the US-led invasion the year before. On Saturday, multiple bombings in the capital killed 35 people.
The bloody three-day period follows a report last week that more than 1,300 people died in violence in Iraq in January alone. In Berlin on Friday, al-Abadi pleaded for help from the international community.
‘The right direction’
IS spearheaded an offensive that swept through large areas north and west of Baghdad last June, and Iraqi forces have battled to regain ground with support since August from the coalition led by the United States, which officially withdrew from the country in 2011. Militants often target crowded places like restaurants, shops and markets to maximize casualties. Some Sunni extremists consider Shiite Muslims heretics, and frequently target them with deadly bombings.
“People need to be recognizing the importance of putting in place a strategy that can win,” Kerry said, speaking from Munich, where he attended the annual security conference.
Petra – the state news agency of Jordan, which has launched several dozen airstrikes against IS in the past week alone – quoted the retired US Marine General John Allen, President Barack Obama’s top envoy for the coalition, as saying that the Iraqi army would launch a major ground offensive against IS.
Regular troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have already advanced on the ground against the group in Iraq. Late Sunday, Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for the Peshmerga, told the Germany news agency dpa that heavy fighting continued northwest of the city of Mosul, and the Kurdish news portal Rudaw reported that IS fighters had begun evacuations in the city center.