BAGHDAD (AFP): A huge car bomb blast has ripped through a used-car market in southern Baghdad, killing at least 52 people, security and medical sources said, in the deadliest such attack in Iraq this year.
Islamic State, which is on the defensive after losing control of eastern Mosul to a US-backed Iraqi military offensive, claimed responsibility for the bombing in an online statement. It was the third such attack to hit the Iraqi capital in three days.
As it cedes territory captured in a 2014 offensive across northern and western Iraq, Isis has stepped up strikes on government areas, particularly in Baghdad. Mobile phone footage circulated on social media showed charred bodies and extensive destruction in the Bayaa neighbourhood of the Iraqi capital. The explosion went off at about 4.15pm local time on Thursday. Security and medical sources said at least 55 people had been wounded.
A police colonel said the emergency services were struggling to cope with the number of casualties and warned that the death toll may rise. The explosion occurred in the same neighbourhood in southern Baghdad where a car-bomb blast killed at least four people on Tuesday. On Wednesday at least 11 people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack claimed by Isis in a northern neighbourhood of Baghdad.
The city was rocked by a wave of deadly suicide bombings during the first days of 2017, but relatively few explosions had been reported since then until this week. US-backed Iraqi forces have dislodged Isis from most of the cities it captured in 2014 and 2015. The militants also control parts of Syria. Iraqi government forces captured eastern Mosul last month and are preparing an offensive on the western side that remains under the militants’ control. The city is divided in two halves by the Tigris river.