A suicide car bomb ripped through an outdoor market in a Shiite-dominated northeastern district of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people, officials said, as government forces deployed across much of the Iraqi capital in preparation for a major military parade later this week.
Five more people died in bombings on Tuesday elsewhere in Iraq.
The developments came on the heels of two large-scale attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) that killed more than 300 people last week. On Monday, visiting US defence secretary Ash Carter said Washington will send 560 more troops to Iraq to help battle IS.
In Tuesday’s Baghdad 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 12 and wounded up to 37, and also damaged several cars, he added.
Elsewhere, a bomb went off at another outdoor market, this one in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Baghdad, killing three shoppers and wounding 10 people, police said. And two more civilians were killed and nine were wounded in a bombing that targeted a commercial area in the capital’s southern neighborhood of Dora, police also said.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to talk to the media.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State. The Sunni extremists, 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 a 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 militants.