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Double attack in southern Iraq kills more than 80

Thursday 14 September 2017, by siawi3


Double attack in southern Iraq kills more than 80

A man looks at the damage after gunmen and a suicide car bomber killed dozens of people Thursday in two assaults claimed by the Islamic State near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. (Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images)

By Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim

September 14 at 1:41 PM

IRBIL, Iraq — A coordinated attack on a restaurant and a security checkpoint in southern Iraq killed more than 80 people Thursday, police and health officials said, in a rare spasm of violence targeting a route used by Shiite pilgrims to visit their holiest shrines.

Gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed into a restaurant in Nasiriyah, about 200 miles south of Baghdad, around lunchtime and opened fire, the head of the provincial health department said. Patrons in the eatery included Iranian and Iraqi pilgrims traveling north toward the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf.

Moments later, a car driven by a suicide bomber exploded at a police checkpoint near the restaurant, which sits along Highway 1, the road that connects Baghdad with Dhi Qar province, where the attack took place.

An additional 93 people were injured in the double attack, for which the Islamic State later claimed responsibility in a statement released online by its propaganda arm. The terrorist group has been steadily losing territory, most recently Mosul, its largest stronghold, and the smaller city of Tal Afar, but it has shown an ability to launch insurgent-style raids in areas it once held.

[ISIS is near defeat in Iraq. Now comes the hard part.]

Iraqi officials have voiced fears that the group would step up its attacks on civilians as its grip on territory weakens.

Because the south is home to Iraq’s most revered Shiite shrines, it is among the best-secured areas of the country and has rarely been the target of large-scale attacks. At the same time, though, many security forces assigned to the south have been drawn into battles against the Islamic State in the north and west, leaving some holes that terrorists have exploited.

Jassim al-Khalidi, the director of the Dhi Qar Health Department, said that 83 people were killed Thursday, most of them inside the restaurant, Fadak, a popular pit stop for pilgrims.

“This restaurant is well-known for being crowded every day because anyone who goes to Najaf and Karbala from the south stops there for lunch,” he said in a telephone interview.

Khalidi said witnesses told him the gunmen came in three cars and began spraying the building with bullets from automatic weapons. The gunmen escaped, he said.

Videos posted on social media showed people frantically searching a hospital ward for their relatives.

One man spoke to the camera, saying he had dropped off his family at the restaurant, then was trying to fix something in his car when the shooting erupted. He said he saw the gunmen flee in black cars.

“I went back to the restaurant and found my entire family dead,” he said.

U.S. officials said the Islamic State has been severely degraded since it lost 90 percent of the territory it seized in a 2014 blitz across Iraq. The cities and towns it once held contained factories for making car bombs and improvised explosive devices, and the loss of those facilities has reduced the group’s use of explosives in its attacks on security forces and civilians.

Attacks involving mainly automatic weapons remain a major challenge, however. Gunmen have been able to breach security lines in cities reclaimed by Iraqi forces, such as Tikrit and Fallujah, often by wearing military uniforms and taking advantage of lax protocols at checkpoints.

In Mosul, residents have complained that some of the militants who patrolled their neighborhoods have reappeared unarmed and are quietly living among them. Although Iraq has detained and is in the process of prosecuting many people suspected of joining the Islamic State, corruption in the police and judiciary has allowed some to avoid arrest.

[After victory over ISIS, Mosul discovers the cost: Homes were turned into graves]

Some analysts say losing territory has not significantly affected the Islamic State’s ability to wage terror on a smaller but still deadly scale.

The group is moving into a new, insurgent phase, said Michael Knights, a military analyst and Persian Gulf expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a nonpartisan think tank.

“ISIS is not a movement in disarray,” he said, using an acronym for the group. “It has undertaken a smooth transition into insurgency, and doesn’t seem greatly disrupted by the loss of terrain.”

Read more:
ISIS: A catastrophe for Sunnis
In one Iraqi town, a visit to the first bar to reopen after Islamic State rule
Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Tamer El-Ghobashy is The Post’s Baghdad bureau chief. Before joining The Post in 2017, he covered the Middle East for The Wall Street Journal, focusing on North Africa and Iraq.



Updated: Over 100 persons killed, injured in Islamic State attack in Dhi Qar

by Nehal Mostafa

Sep 14, 2017, 3:43 pm

Photo: A booby-trap vehicle detonation. File Photo

Dhi Qar ( More than 100 persons, including Iranians, were killed and injured in an attack carried out Islamic State militants earlier on Thursday in Dhi Qar province.

“The total death toll of the victims reached 59 persons, while 96 others were wounded,” Jassim al-Khaldi, head of the health department of the province said in a statement.

According to Reuters, the militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. A statement on the group’s Amaq news agency said the attacks were carried out by its suicide fighters.

Militants, in military uniform, reportedly accessed a restaurant on the highway in west of the province and opened fire on people inside randomly. Iranion visitors were killed and injured. The militants then boarded two vehicles and headed to the checkpoint on borders between Dhi Qar and Muthanna provinces, where they blew up one of the vehicles leaving more casualties.

Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, spokesperson of the Interior Ministry, confirmed an attack by terrorists against a restaurant on the road between Dhi Qar and Basra. The assailants opened fire before blowing up a booby-trapped car.

Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State Sunni extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

A monthly count by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), which excludes security members deaths, said 297 Iraqis, were killed and injured due to violence and armed conflicts during the month of ِAugust. Baghdad was the most affected province with 45 deaths and 135 injuries.

Baghdad has seen almost daily bombings and armed attacks against security members, paramilitary groups and civilians since the Iraqi government launched a wide-scale campaign to retake IS-occupied areas in 2016. While most of of the explosions and attacks went without a claim of responsibility, Islamic State has claimed several incidents.