A Baghdad, Iraq shopping mall was the target of a suicide bombing attack Friday, leaving at least 40 dead and 60 injured, according to RT. The Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The suicide bomb attack targeted the Nakheel Mall in eastern Baghdad. The shopping center is directly across from the Iraq Oil Ministry headquarters, but it is unclear whether or not this location figured into the bombing itself. A statement from the Islamic State claims the bombing targeted “a gathering of Shia” outside the mall, referring to Shia Muslims. The Islamic State is an organization of extremist Sunni Muslims and often targets devotees of Shia Islam.
According to Reuters, the Baghdad bombing was carried out by two suicide bombers, one of whom was wearing an explosive vest and another that was operating a bomb-laden motor vehicle. However, recent reports suggest that both attackers detonated car bombs. The bombing ignited several fires and caused significant damage to the outside of the Nakheel Mall. This bombing comes just days after another suicide car bombing in near a Baghdad hospital on Monday, which killed nine people, and less than two months after a July car bombing that killed 324 in the Karrada neighborhood, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Baghdad since the beginning of the Iraq War.
The Islamic State terrorist group, or Daesh, claimed responsibility for the Friday attack via their propaganda agencies. Daesh has been mostly active in the northern and western regions of Iraq, but this latest attack demonstrates their continued ability to reach into other parts of the country, including Baghdad itself. The attack comes as the Iraqi military ramps up for an attack on the northern Daesh stronghold of Mosul. The terror organization has been the defensive in recent weeks as the Iraqi military and Iran-backed Shi’ite groups push them from the south and east and win back territory.
The bombing also comes just days before the holy festival of Eid ul Adha and as Muslims around the world prepare for the Hajj, the holy pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia which all Muslims are expected to carry out once in their lifetime. As pointed out by Iraqi News, the Islamic State often carries out their attacks around Islamic holidays; the aforementioned attack in Karrada, for example, came at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It is likely that the shops inside the Nakheel Mall, which opened its doors just last year, would have been open late in advance of the holiday.
According to the Middle East Eye, cleanup efforts began early on the morning after the bombing. Most of the windows were shattered and a fence that surrounded the mall was heavily damaged; rubble and broken glass still covered the ground. A private security firm hired to protect the mall site discouraged the taking of photos, even confiscating several cameras, which were apparently later returned.
The rise in bombings may be due to the current state of the Daesh terror group. As they have been consistently pushed into a defensive position in Iraq and elsewhere, the group holds significantly less territory in Iraq than it did at its height in June 2014. It is likely that the string of shopping center and car bombings seen in recent days is a form of retaliation. It is, however, still deeply troubling that the organization can reach as far into Iraq as the Baghdad capital and conduct their bombing campaigns.
[Photo by Karim Kadim/AP Images]