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Baghdad lorry bomb kills 115 celebrating the end of Ramadan

By Murtada Faraj

A suicide lorry bomb in Baghdad killed 115 people and wounded nearly 200 others who were shopping and celebrating early yesterday ahead of the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, was the deadliest for months in the Iraqi capital, and came despite a series of recent gains against the extremists, including the capture of Fallujah, which was believed to have been a source of such attacks.

The bomb went off shortly after midnight in a crowded shopping area in the central Karada district, killing at least 115 people and wounding 187, according to a police official. The dead included at least 15 children, 10 women and six policemen. At least 12 other people were still missing and feared dead.

Karada is a major commercial area lined with clothing and jewellery stores, restaurants and cafes, and was packed with shoppers ahead of Wednesday's Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Most of the victims were inside a multi-storey shopping and amusement centre, where dozens burned to death or suffocated, police said.

It was the deadliest attack in Iraq since July 2015 and among the worst single bombings in more than a decade of war and insurgency.

"It was like an earthquake," said Karim Sami, a 35-year-old street vendor. "I wrapped up my goods and was heading home when I saw a fireball with a thunderous bombing," the father-of-three said.

"I was so scared to go back and started to make phone calls to my friends, but none answered."

He said that one of his friends was killed, another was wounded and one was still missing.

As with many previous attacks, Isis swiftly claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online, saying it had targeted Shi'ite Muslims. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statement, but it was posted on a website commonly used by the extremists.

Firefighters and civilians could be seen carrying the dead away, their bodies wrapped in blankets and sheets. Smoke billowed from the shopping centre, which was surrounded by the twisted and burned wreckage of cars and market stalls. A group of women sat on the pavement, crying for their loved ones.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, a roadside bomb went off in the mostly Shi'ite Shaab neighbourhood, killing five people and wounding 16, a police officer said. No group claimed responsibility, but it had the hallmarks of Isis militants.

Sunni extremists frequently target the country's Shiite majority and Shi'ite-led security forces. The attacks came just a little over a week after Iraqi forces declared Fallujah "fully liberated," marking a major victory against Isis. The city, less than an hour's drive from Baghdad, had been the first Iraqi urban centre to fall to Isis, in January 2014, and was its last major stronghold in the vast, Sunni Anbar province.

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