A funeral in Iraq was the site of a suicide bombing today, when ISIS militants detonated at least one suicide vest during the Shia funeral, killing at least 27 and injuring more than 50 others, reports BBC News. Although the death toll continues to rise as the story develops, several sources, including News.com.au, claim the death toll is as high as 40.
ISIS organized the attack in an attempt to take out two Shia commanders, leaders in the Popular Mobilisation Forces. Iraq media claims that some of the commanders present at the funeral were killed in the attack. Shortly after the announcement, ISIS took credit for the suicide bombing, claiming it “organized” and orchestrated the funeral bombing in Northeast Iraq.
The funeral attack is the second suicide bombing ISIS has orchestrated this weekend; another one saw two bombers detonate suicide vests at a crowded market on Sunday. ISIS suicide bombers detonated themselves one after the other, waiting for the initial shock to subside and emergency crews to enter the crowded market. That’s when the second bomber detonated his vest, killing first responders and others wounded by the first blast. At least 73 were killed in the market bombing, and countless others were injured by the ISIS attack.
In Muqdadiya, which lies north of Baghdad, the ISIS suicide bombers successfully targeted several commanders of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a militia organization created to oppose ISIS incursions into the region. News.com.au claims the attack killed six Shia commanders and is likely to inflame sectarian violence in the region.
“The suicide attacker approached local Hashid commanders and then blew his vest up, killing both with many others,” said an anonymous police officer who spoke with Newsweek.
ISIS took to Twitter to claim responsibility for the attack as the death toll continues to rise at this hour.
The region has been wracked by violence ever since ISIS was “defeated” by Iraqi forces. ISIS routinely targets Shia Muslims and organizations, as the militant group is mostly comprised of Sunni Muslims. In the Diyala region of Iraq, the Iraqi government claimed victory over ISIS, but ever since, the tension between the two Muslim sects has been on the rise, as the militia forces responsible for the victory are predominantly Shia.
ISIS has claimed that similar bombings have been retaliation for Shia militia attacks on Sunni mosques. Human Rights Watch claims the rising sectarian tension was likely to blame for the militia commanders being targeted at the funeral today – an intentional move by ISIS, the attack will only serve to inflame tensions between the Shia militia and Sunni residents of Diyala province.
This is the second time that ISIS has targeted a high-profile militia funeral in Iraq. Late last year, in November, ISIS orchestrated a suicide bombing of another funeral inside the Al-Ashara al-Mubashara mosque in South Baghdad, which killed 17 and wounded 33. ISIS targeted the funeral in retaliation for its own failures against the militia group, which has seen widespread success at dismantling the ISIS presence throughout Iraq, although many underground cells remain.
Among those killed in the funeral attack today is the commander of a militia group called Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shiite militia group that has been given authority over the region by the Iraq central government.
As ISIS continues to face defeat on the battlefield in Iraq, international observers, such as Human Rights Watch, warn that the suicide attacks will likely escalate as ISIS becomes more and more desperate. The Belfast Telegraph reports that ISIS may end up relying on mass attacks against civilians if the militant group continues to lose ground against Iraqi militia forces.
ISIS still controls swaths of northern and western Iraq, but the city of Ramadi was recently liberated by militia forces, report Iraqi officials.
[Photo by Ali Abdul Hassan/AP]