BAGHDAD — Ahead of Baghdad ending a decade-old nightly curfew, bombs exploded across the Iraqi capital Saturday, killing at least 40 people in a stark warning of the dangers still ahead in this country torn by the Islamic State group.
The deadliest bombing happened in the capital’s New Baghdad neighbourhood, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a street filled with hardware stores and a restaurant, killing 22 people, police said.
“The restaurant was full of young people, children and women when the suicide bomber blew himself up,” witness Mohamed Saeed said. “Many got killed.”
The Islamic State group later claimed the attack, saying their bomber targeted Shiites, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based terrorism monitor. The militants now hold a third of both Iraq and neighbouring Syria in their self-declared caliphate.
A second attack happened in central Baghdad’s popular Shorja market, where two bombs some 25 meters apart exploded, killing at least 11 people, police said. Another bombing at the Abu Cheer outdoor market in southwestern Baghdad killed at least four people, police said.
In Tarmiya, a Sunni town 50 kilometres north of Baghdad, a bomb blast killed at least three soldiers in a passing convoy, authorities said.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists. No group claimed the other attacks.
The bombings came as Iraq prepared to lift its nightly midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew on Sunday. The curfew largely has been in place since 2004, in response to the growing sectarian violence that engulfed Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion a year earlier.
There was no immediate comment Saturday from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who announced the end of the curfew on Thursday by decree. He also ordered that streets, long blocked off for security reasons, reopen for traffic and pedestrians.
Iraqi officials repeatedly have assured that the capital is secure, despite Sunni militant groups occasionally attacking Baghdad’s Shiite-majority neighborhoods.