Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that killed at least 115 people in a central shopping district of Baghdad.
Officials said that a further 187 people had been wounded in the attack after a suicide bomber blew up a truck packed with explosives outside a crowded shopping centre in the central Karada district.
A police officer said the dead included 15 children, 10 women and six policemen.
On a bloody day in the Iraqi capital – where a second attack took five more lives – IS served a reminder of its ability to mount significant attacks despite its recent losses in the battlefields.
The suicide bomber struck shortly after midnight, when families and young people were out on the streets after breaking their daylight fast for the holy month of Ramadan. Most of the victims were inside a multi-storey shopping and amusement centre, where dozens burned to death or suffocated, officials said.
“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 fire ball with a thunderous bombing. I was so scared to go back and started to make phone calls to my friends, but none answered,” the father of three added. He said that one of his friends had been killed, another was wounded and one was still missing.
Within hours, IS claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online, saying they had deliberately targeted Shiite Muslims. It was posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists.
Just over a week ago Fallujah, located 70 kilometres outside Baghdad, was declared “fully liberated” from the extremist group
In the second attack, an improvised explosive device went off in Baghdad’s northern Shaab area, killing five people and wounding 16, another police officer said. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of IS militants who often target commercial districts and Shiite areas.
The high death toll made it the second deadliest attack in the capital this year. On May 11, IS militants carried out three car bombings in Baghdad, killing 93 people.
Hours after the bombing, Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi and MPs visited the blast site. Video footage uploaded to social media showed an angry crowd, with people calling al-Abadi a “thief” and shouting at his convoy.
Eyewitnesses said the crowd pelted al-Abadi’s car with rocks, shoes and jerry cans.
In Karada civilians expressed their frustration at the government’s failure to secure the capital.
“We are in a state of war, and these places are targeted. The security can’t focus on the war (against IS) and forget Baghdad,” Sami, the street vendor, said.
IS still controls Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul as well as significant patches of territory in the country’s north and west.
At the height of the extremist group’s power in 2014, IS rendered nearly a third of the country out of government control. Now, the militants are estimated to control only 14% of Iraqi territory, according to the office of Iraq’s prime minister.