Wave of bombings hits Baghdad killing 77

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BAGHDAD: A wave of bombings struck outdoor markets and a restaurant in Shiite-dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad Tuesday, killing at least 77 people, officials said – the latest in deadly militant attacks far from the front lines in the country’s north and west where Iraqi forces are battling Daesh (ISIS). In an online statement, Daesh claimed responsibility only for the deadliest bombing of the day, which took place in Baghdad’s northeastern Shaab neighborhood and where at least 34 people were killed and 75 others were wounded.

In that attack, a roadside bomb first exploded outside the concrete blast walls surrounding the open-air market, followed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up as people gathered to help the victims of the first explosion, a police officer said.

The Daesh statement said the attack was carried out by an Iraqi who targeted members of Shiite militias. The AP could not verify the authenticity of the statement but it was posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists.

Tuesday’s bombings were just the latest in a wave of attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas that has left more than 200 dead over the past week. The attacks, many claimed by Daesh, come as the group has lost significant chunks of territory to Iraqi ground forces over the past year. As the Daesh militants are pushed back along front lines, the group is increasingly turning to insurgency-style attacks to detract from their losses, Iraqi and coalition officials say.

Iraq is also in the midst of a political crisis that has gridlocked the country’s government. While Iraqi security officials say they are concerned political instability is distracting from the fight against Daesh, some analysts say the militant group is launching the attacks at a time of political crisis in an attempt to further delegitimize the Iraqi government.

Shortly after the Shaab attack, a parked car bomb struck a fruit-and-vegetable market in the Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Dora, in southern Baghdad, killing eight people and wounding 22 others, a police officer said.

In Baghdad’s sprawling eastern Shiite district of Sadr City, a suicide car bombing hit a crowded outdoor market, killing 18 people and wounding 35 others. In northeast Baghdad, a suicide bomber targeted a restaurant in the Habibiya neighborhood, killing nine and wounding 18.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Commercial and public places in Shiite-dominated areas are among the most frequent targets for the Sunni militants seeking to undermine the Iraqi government efforts to maintain security inside the capital. But Daesh has not confined its latest attacks only to Baghdad.

Earlier Tuesday, Iraqi oil workers resumed work at a natural gas plant north of Baghdad, two days after a coordinated Daesh dawn assault left at least 14 people dead there, a senior Oil Ministry official said.

Sunday’s spectacular attack in the town of Taji, about 20 kilometers north of Baghdad, saw a suicide car bombing at the facility’s main gate, followed by several Daesh fighters breaking into the plant where they clashed with security forces for hours before the attackers were repelled.

The dead included six civilians and eight security forces while 27 Iraqi troops were wounded. Closed-circuit television images showed an explosion that sent thick black smoke rising above the plant. As flames engulfed the facility and nearby palm trees, pedestrians were seen running for cover. The top of one of the gas-processing units was blown off. Clashes lasted for hours before Iraqi troops managed to repel the attackers.

Work at the plant’s three production lines returned “to normal levels” Tuesday, Deputy Oil Minister Hamid Younis said. The plant was back to full capacity of producing 30,000 cooking gas cylinders a day, he said, adding that Sunday’s attack had only damaged two gas storage units and a few pipelines. Iraqi state TV showed workers in navy blue overalls filling metal and plastic cylinders on conveyor belts and forklifts loading cylinders into trucks.

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