A suicide car bomb ripped through an outdoor market in a Shiite-dominated northeastern district of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people, officials said, as government forces deployed across much of the Iraqi capital in preparation for a major military parade later this week.
The developments came on the heels of two large-scale attacks claimed by the Islamic State terror group that killed more than 300 people last week. On Monday, visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Washington will send 560 more troops to Iraq to help battle IS.
In Tuesday’s bombing, the explosives-laden pickup truck exploded during the morning rush hour at a vegetable and fruit market in the al-Rashidiya district, a police officer said. The blast killed 11 and wounded up to 32, and also damaged several cars, he added.
A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State terror group. The Sunni terrorists, who consider Shiites heretics, swept across northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014, capturing large chunks of territory and plunging the country into its worst crisis since U.S. troops left at the end of 2011.
Last week, IS killed more than 300 people in two attacks. A massive truck bombing struck a bustling commercial area in Baghdad’s predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Karada, killing 292 people — one of the deadliest attacks since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. And last Thursday, an attack at a Shiite shrine north of Baghdad killed 37 people.
Iraqi government forces deployed in most of Baghdad on Tuesday, closing off main roads and snarling traffic. The Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, said the troops were “practicing for a planned military parade for a specific occasion.” Maan didn’t name the occasion, but the country is due to mark the anniversary of its 1958 overthrow of a Hashemite monarchy and the declaration of Iraq as a republic on Thursday.
The recent uptick in IS attacks beyond the front lines demonstrated the IS group’s ability to launch lethal attacks despite recent territorial losses in both Iraq and Syria, where it has established a self-proclaimed caliphate. IS militants still hold pockets of territory in northern and western Iraq.
According to Carter, who on Monday met with top Iraqi officials, the new American forces should arrive in the coming weeks. They will primarily be tasked with transforming an air base retaken this month from IS into a staging hub for the long-awaited battle to recapture Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city — from Islamic State terrorists.