Islamic forces have gone on a rampage in Iraq with a string of bombings and gun attacks throughout this past week. On Wednesday it was a car bomb that went off in the crowded Sadr City in Eastern Baghdad killing 80 people and wounding more than 100. On Thursday, in Ramadi, it was suicide truck bombs that killed 17 Iraqi soldiers. 2 policemen were killed and 8 wounded in a double suicide attack in Abu Ghraib which had targeted Iraqi police stations. The militants clashed with police at al-Zeidan station before setting off their explosives-filled vests.
Then, most recently, three gunmen opened fire at a cafe in Northern Iraq which was filled with young men gathered for weekend fun and killed 12, wounding 25 others. The cafe in the predominately Shi’ite Muslim town of Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, was sprayed by machine gun fire from the assailants in their cars for around 10 minutes before they sped off. The fact that the militants managed to slip past by two security posts to reach the town of Balad has raised security issues in the country.
Hours later yet another suicide bomber set off his explosive vest at a nearby vegetable market after police and Shi’ite militia members cornered him in a disused building and exchanged gunfire, security sources said. Four were killed and two critically wounded.
Islamic state has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks. Since the time that it has been pushed out of certain key cities the IS has resorted to such attacks on civilian as well as military centres.
The week has proved out to be bloodiest this year in Iraq with hundreds of casualties caused by a series of attacks by Islamic state, which has once again, left the country shaken.
The attacks near Ramadi, in Jarayshi 10 km away, on Thursday, are believed to have dealt the deadliest blow to the army since it captured the town back from IS five months ago. The militants also managed to cut off a route through which supplies were transported to Thirthar further north from Ramadi. With the help of air strikes by a US led coalition the route was reopened, however, this did not deter the militants who managed to invade into northern areas and kept up their attacks on government positions.
An officer said the Islamic State attack appeared designed to offset a planned army offensive to completely cut off the militant supply routes to Fallujah, on the western approaches to Baghdad.
Supporters of a Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr flooded the streets of Baghdad on Thursday to protest against the present government for failing to protect them. They carried placards denouncing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki and others.
Sadr’s followers argue that it is the corrupt political system that has weakened the fight against the Sunni Muslim militants. They have called for armed neighbourhood groups to take over from police patrolling in city areas.
Prime Minister Abadi came to power after a lightning offensive wiped out ISIS from Sunni areas. There is a political crisis in the country after a cabinet reshuffle. These demonstrations are designed to put pressure on Abadi to resolve the political crisis, or risk losing control of parts of the capital even as the army fights Islamic State in the provinces.
The protests raise questions on and threatens to undermine U.S.-backed efforts to defeat Islamic State as well as international efforts to keep the major OPEC producer from bankruptcy amid low oil prices.
“Yesterday’s security blunders put pressure not only on Abadi but the entire political process,” said Baghdad-based analyst Ahmed al-Sharifi. “All the blocs are responsible and subject to blame for what is happening.”
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the brutal Islamic State terror attacks against civilians will likely accelerate as American and Iraqi forces inch closer to launching the battle to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, from Islamic State control.
“What I think we are talking about … is terrorist attacks and this is something we can expect ISIS is going to continue to do” as Iraqi and U.S. forces gear up for the long-awaited assault on Mosul.
Security has improved somewhat in the capital in recent years, but this week’s carnage has raised ugly fears that Baghdad could return to the days when suicide bombings killed scores of people every week.