Dual Bombing Targets Civilians in Baghdad, as ISIS Loses Ground in Mosul

Two bombings in Baghdad, Iraq, killed around thirty people and injured dozens more. The attacks occurred last Tuesday, just a couple of days into Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.

The first explosion occurred after midnight, targeting a popular ice cream shop in the commercial Karrada district in central Baghdad. This street is lined with popular restaurants and cafes, and was packed with families staying late into the night to prepare for the next day’s fast.

The explosives were in a parked car and were donated remotely. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the attack via through their affiliated news agency Amaq, saying they had deliberately targeted Shia Muslims. Anti-Shia attacks are common, as ISIS considers them to be heretics.

Videos posted on social media show wounded civilians on the road outside the shop. Journalist Hareth Al-Harethi told CNN, “It was a very, very ugly scene.” He says most of the victims were women and children.

Hours later, a second car bombing went off during rush hour near Al-Shahada Bridge in the busy Shawaka district. Fourteen people were killed while lined up outside a state-run pension office, and around forty-five were injured. Responsibility has not been claimed, although it bears the mark of ISIS.

These two attacks have exacerbated fears that ISIS will use Ramadan to increase violence against civilians. Muslims believe that blessings for good deeds are increased during this holy month, and the members of this organization have a twisted notion of “good deeds”. Last Ramadan, in July, over 300 people were killed by a bombing at a mall in central Karrada, where people were out shopping after sunset to prepare for the Eid celebration at the end of the month. This was the single deadliest event in the thirteen years of war since the 2003 American invasion to out Saddam Hussein.

UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed “his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims” through his spokesperson, and “reiterates that the United Nations will continue to stand by the government and people of Iraq in their efforts to fight terrorism.”

Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, tweeted after the first attack: “ISIS terrorists tonight in Baghdad target children and families enjoying time together at an ice cream shop. We stand with Iraq against this evil.”

Advancements in Mosul

These attacks come as the terrorist group continues losing ground in Mosul, their stronghold in the north of Iraq. However, with these loses comes an increased desperation to remain relevant in the region.

“[ISIS] wants Iraqis to fear going out and this is to show they are still present and able to attack the heart of the Iraqi capital, even as they are being defeated on the battlefield.” Hayder al-Khoei, a London-based Middle East expert, told Al Jazeera.

Mosul was seized in the summer of 2014, and the offensive to retake it, which began in October with air and ground support from the US, has taken much longer than expected. The Iraqi government has recaptured majority of the city; on May 27, they launched an elevated offensive on three neighbourhoods north of Mosul’s Old City – Al-Shifaa, Al-Saha, and Al-Zinjili.

The head of the Iraqi operation says they are facing strong resistance, but are managing to push ISIS fighters back; two anonymous officers called the advance “cautious”.

Dozens of civilians have been shot while trying to escape the area, where hundreds of thousands are trapped within ISIS-controlled territory.

Victory here will mark the end of ISIS in Iraq.

Lack of Coverage

Didn’t hear about this bombing until now? I’m not surprised.

In the past, there has been discussion about the lack of media coverage given to terrorist attacks in Muslim countries. This case in no different; I only heard about it through Al Jazeera.

For example, Manchester received a lot of attention. I am not trying to undermine that attack, as it was tragic, but these two bombings in Iraq’s capital are no less tragic. People are people, regardless of religion or nationality.

It seems all too common to pretend that ISIS is only “after white people”, which is not accurate. But it is harder to continue associating ISIS with Islam when you realize the number of Muslims who have been killed by this terrorist – very clearly not Muslim – organization.

Of course, this is all speculation, but I think it is notable that I used primarily Middle Eastern news sources to do the research for this article.

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