17 killed in ISIS attack on Mall, Baghdad
The New York Times
BAGHDAD — Islamic State militants attacked a shopping mall in eastern Baghdad on Monday evening, killing at least 17 people and turning the neighborhood into an urban war zone at rush hour, with helicopters hovering overhead and snipers taking positions on nearby rooftops.
Amid a gun battle that raged for nearly two hours, officials initially feared a hostage crisis was in the works. But when the battle was over, they said most of the deaths had been caused by a car bomb that initiated the attack and by two suicide bombers who struck at the entrance to the mall, which houses mostly women’s clothing stores known for discount prices.
An Iraqi security official said that the attackers killed at least 17 people, including five members of the security forces, and that nearly 40 were wounded.
The Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL that controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the complex attack. In a social media post, the group said that four militants had been involved and claimed that they had killed or wounded nearly 90 people, according to a translation distributed by SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist communications.
“What is coming is worse and more bitter, God permitting,” the group said.
Iraqi forces with American support recently pushed Islamic State fighters out of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province in the west. That was the biggest population center yet that the Islamic State had lost, but the group is still firmly in control of its two most important cities — Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in Syria.
The attack in Baghdad on Monday, in the Shiite-majority neighborhood of Baghdad Jadida, or New Baghdad, indicated the group’s continued ability to carry out guerrilla attacks and disrupt life even in the heavily secured capital.
For Baghdad residents, the attack was a fearsome reminder of the days their city faced near-daily mass casualty attacks from car bombs and suicide attackers. But lately, as the Islamic State, whose predecessor was Al Qaeda in Iraq, has focused on holding the territory it controls, Baghdad has been relatively safer.
The attack also underscored what many fear will happen as the Islamic State loses territory in places like Ramadi: that the group will return to its days as a guerrilla force trying to instill terror by carrying out attacks en masse.
“The scene was terrible, and I will never forget it because of the child,” said Haitham Ali, 48, who was near the attack and carried away the body of a child killed by one of the suicide bombers.
Another man, Mustafa Mohammed, 32, said that amid the chaos he heard one of the militants yelling that he had run out of ammunition, just before he detonated his explosives vest.
Many of the initial reports suggested a hostage crisis was underway. But officials said that only two militants had entered the mall and that the attackers were quickly killed after counterterrorism forces stormed the building.
“The enemy is diversifying its tactics by attacking civilians like this, especially after the recent victories by our security forces against ISIS in Ramadi,” said Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir al-Shimari, the head of the Baghdad Operations Command.
The mall attack was the most brazen one in a violent day in Iraq, but it was not the deadliest.
Later in the evening, as the police and counterterrorism forces were still securing the area around the mall in Baghdad and dead bodies were being carted away, an explosion tore through a cafe in the city of Muqdadiya, in Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad. A second explosion — from a suicide car bomber, officials said — struck outside the cafe as victims were being evacuated and security forces and paramedics were arriving on the scene. Officials said 23 people were killed and 44 were wounded in the combination attack, for which the Islamic State also claimed credit.
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