Iraq mourned its dead yesterday as the death toll from one of its deadliest car bombs rose to at least 90.
The suicide attack by Islamic State, which ripped through a busy market north of Baghdad, came as the country marked Eid ul-Fitr, the feast that ends the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Residents recounted scenes of horror in the aftermath of the attack on Saturday (AEST), in which officials said at least 15 children died.
Muthanna Saadoun, 25, a municipal employee who drives a street sweeper, used his truck to help put out the fires that the blast caused in the market area.
“People were burning in their cars because no ambulances or fire engines were able to reach them,” he said yesterday.
Islamic State said the suicide attacker had three tonnes of explosives in his vehicle. The blast left a huge crater in the main street of Khan Bani Saad, only 20km from Baghdad’s northern outskirts, in Diyala province.
“What we witnessed yesterday cannot be described. Fire, bodies, wounded, women and children screaming … Khan is now a disaster zone,” said Salem Abu Moqtada, 34, who sells vegetables in the market.
“The toll so far is 90 martyrs and 120 wounded, and we have between 17 and 20 missing,” said Abbas Hadi Saleh, the top official in Khan Bani Saad, which is predominantly Shia but has a Sunni minority.
Officials warned the toll could climb even higher after a day that saw bodies being retrieved from collapsed buildings while others were being buried.
“Every year (during Ramadan) there’s a bombing. We are guilty of being Shia,” Mr Saleh said. “This is the biggest in Diyala since 2003.”
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the attack as “a despicable crime by the “Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist gangs”.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday it had broken up planned Islamic State attacks in the kingdom and arrested more than 400 suspects in an anti-terrorism sweep.
The Saudi crackdown underscores the OPEC powerhouse’s growing concern about the threat posed by Islamic State, which in addition to its operations in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for recent suicide bombings aimed at Shi’ites in the kingdom’s oil-rich east and in neighbouring Kuwait. The Saudi Interior Ministry accused those arrested over the “past few weeks” of involvement in several attacks, including a suicide bombing in May that killed 22 people in the eastern village of al-Qudeeh.
It also blamed them for the November shooting and killing of eight worshippers in the eastern Saudi village of al-Ahsa, and for behind another attack in late May, when a suicide bomber disguised as a woman blew himself up in the carpark of a Shia mosque, killing four.
Source: The Australian