IS atrocity dampens festive cheer in Iraq

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There won’t be any festive cheer for many in Iraq this week after a deadly suicide car bombing left more than 200 people dead in Karrada, a religiously diverse district in the capital Baghdad on Sunday.
It was one of the worst atrocities on the Iraqi population claimed by Islamic State, which has also owned up the recent terror strikes in Istanbul and Dhaka. The three grisly terror attacks fly in the face of claims that IS has been significantly weakened, nor can any comfort be drawn from the assumption that they were the product of the group’s frustration and its efforts to stay relevant as it hurtles towards its predicted end.
Ever since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country has been rocked by sectarian strife which has continued even after the occupation forces left in 2011. Iraqi governments since then have failed to curb this menace, with religious tensions becoming an inevitable feature of life.
The latest attacks have also dampened the euphoria of the Iraqi forces’ gains in their battle against the IS. Last week it was announced that Fallujah has been recaptured from the group, leaving Mosul as the only Iraqi city under the terror group’s control.
IS said an Iraqi operative carried out the attack as part of “ongoing security operations”, adding that it had specifically targeted Shias. However, Karrada is also a district where a large number of Christians and other minorities have lived in peace for decades.
The attack sparked anger among Iraqis and prompted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to announce efforts to address longstanding flaws in Baghdad’s security measures.
His office announced three days of national mourning for the victims of the attack and he vowed to “punish” the perpetrators of the blast.
Al-Abadi announced a series of changes to security measures following the Sunday bombing, including scrapping the fake detectors, while ordering the deployment of Rapiscan security devices at checkpoints and other sensitive spots.
Meanwhile, as the relatives of the dead struggled to come to terms with the tragedy, ordinary Iraqis vent their anger at the government.
IS “tactics are changing. Why does the Iraqi government have fixed tactics?” a man asked at the site of the bombing, criticising the government’s “stupid checkpoints” and use of fake bomb detectors.
Abadi was met with an angry response when he visited the site of the bombing, with one video showing men throwing rocks at what was said to be the premier’s convoy, while a man could be heard cursing at him in another clip.
The White House has condemned the attack, so has the Arab League, but that won’t come as any consolation to the people who have lost their loved ones. With close to 40 children too having perished in the blast, it will be a joyless Eid for many in Iraq this week.