The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group Sunday claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack outside a popular Baghdad restaurant that killed 15 people, including four policemen and a media figure. Saturday’s attack, one of the deadliest in the Iraqi capital this year, took place in Karrada, a district packed with shops and restaurants. It was the latest in a series of similar bombings in Baghdad. It killed 15 people and wounded 51, a police colonel told AFP on Sunday, revising an earlier toll of 14 dead and 39 injured. ISIS radio Al-Bayan said the jihadist group carried out the attack and targeted a Shiite militia helping Iraq’s government forces fight the extremist militants.
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We turn now to Iraq, and the war against the Islamic State group, where Iraqi Shia militia, many backed by Iran, are often the ones leading the fight. That activity was on display most recently in Tikrit, where the Shia were accused of looting and atrocities after retaking the Sunni Muslim city. These militia have a long, bloody history with American forces, too. The top American commander for the region spoke recently at a Senate hearing.
Stephen Harper got to see the no man's land of northern Iraq on Saturday as questions emerged about whether Canadian special forces soldiers have curtailed trips to the frontline in the aftermath of a friendly fire death almost two months ago. The prime minister said he wasn't going to talk about operational details and suggested the two sides are trying to move on from the painful episode which saw Canadian and Kurdish officials pointing fingers at one another over Sgt. Andrew Doiron's shooting death. "It was a terrible tragedy," said Harper, who indicated that he had not yet read the report in the confused nighttime shooting.
Congress may reconsider a provision in an upcoming bill funding the training of the Iraqi army that would also send weapons directly to Arab Sunnis and Kurds, a congressman visiting Baghdad said Sunday. However Rep. Michael T. McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security visiting Baghdad with seven other members, said following meetings with the Iraqi government that Congress would still seek a way to ensure the Sunnis and Kurds fighting the Islamic State group would receive weapons.
"I think there is a way to streamline the process of getting the weapons to both the Sunni tribes and the (Kurdish) peshmerga, where it is desperately needed to defeat ISIS, while at the same time not undermining the government of Iraq in Baghdad," McCaul told The Associated Press, referring to the Islamic State by an acronym.
On June 11, 2014, Mahmoud, a sixty-year-old employee at a school in Tikrit, Iraq, drove home for his afternoon nap. Thirty minutes later, he received a frantic call from a friend in Baghdad who demanded to know if TV reports that ISIS had taken over the city were accurate. Mahmoud dismissed them; after all, he had noticed nothing unusual during his drive home; nor had he heard any gunfire or other commotion from his house, which was near the main road. As he drove back to his school, however, he was shocked to see ISIS fighters driving around unopposed. As he soon learned, a contingent of just thirty militants in seven vehicles had seized control in the time it took him to have his nap. Iraq’s security forces, on which 100 billion dollars of Iraq’s money had been spent between 2006 to 2014, had simply melted away.
The head of the European Union's humanitarian aid department warned on Thursday that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating rapidly while the world is preoccupied with crises elsewhere. Shortly after Jean-Louis de Brouwer sounded the stark warning, a wave of car bombs targeting public places after nightfall in Baghdad and in a town just south of the Iraqi capital killed a total of 21 people and wounded scores of others.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but Baghdad and its surroundings have seen near-daily bombings, mostly targeting the country's majority Shiites or security forces even as authorities struggle to win back territory captured by the Islamic State group. Earlier in the day, De Brouwer told The Associated Press that the number of displaced people in Iraq has quadrupled in the last year and shows no signs of decreasing. "The worst is still to come," he said. "The situation is deteriorating, humanitarian aid is becoming even more essential than it was, the problem is funding." Iraq is convulsed in a battle between the government, its militia allies and forces of the Islamic State group that have taken over large parts of the north and west in the country.
Souk al-Shorja is Baghdad's oldest market. It was established in the late Abbasid period about A.D. 750 and was first called Souk al-Rayahin then Souk al-Attarin. It is part of the historic area that includes the Abbasid palace on the Tigris River and the Khulafa mosque on al-Jumhuriya Street. "Shorja" means "salty water" in Arabic, and there was once a well where the market is now.
This market has remained throughout this period and later, and preserved the style of its shops, stores and squares that still swarm with shoppers and merchants. Modern shopping malls in the Iraqi capital cannot compete with Shorja. It consists of a series of overlapping souks that preserved their traditional and popular character. It offers food and conventional household goods and more specialized items for religious occasions and holidays. Traditional spice dealers sell all kinds of spices, sugar, tea, grains and sweets. There are several ways in to the market. Al-Monitor used the Rashid Street entrance, the narrow alleyways no more than three or four meters (10 or 13 feet) wide. Some of them are part of the market, which still preserves its old structure and has not seen any radical changes over the decades.
Iraq is poised to deploy Shi'ite paramilitaries backed by Iran to Sunni tribal areas west of Baghdad, a move supporters say is needed to defeat Islamic State militants but opponents say could inflame more sectarian violence. Shi'ite paramilitaries have already played a central, if controversial, role alongside regular army units in recent months in the Iraqi government's first major successful campaign against Islamic State fighters, helping to capture Saddam Hussein's home town Tikrit on the Tigris River north of Baghdad. So far, however, the government has avoided deploying the militia in the Euphrates River valley province of Anbar west of the capital, a vast Sunni tribal homeland that strides the main routes to Jordan and Syria. Baghdad considers Anbar the next target in its campaign to retake territory from the militants.
The director of the European Union’s humanitarian aid department warned on Thursday that the situation in Iraq was deteriorating rapidly while the world was preoccupied with crises elsewhere. Shortly after the official, Jean-Louis de Brouwer, sounded his warning, a wave of car bombs in Baghdad and Madaen, a town to the south, killed a total of 21 people and wounded at least 65. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Baghdad and the surrounding area have had near-daily bombings as the authorities struggle to win back territory captured by the Islamic State. Earlier, Mr. de Brouwer said that the number of displaced people in Iraq had quadrupled in the past year and showed no signs of decreasing. “The worst is still to come,” he said. “The situation is deteriorating; humanitarian aid is becoming even more essential than it was. The problem is funding.” He said he was worried about “donor exhaustion.”
The U.S.-led coalition may have taken back a city or two. But ISIS is still attracting thousands of jihadists, undercutting a key component of America’s war plans. Foreign fighters from around the globe continue to pour into Iraq and Syria to join up with the self-proclaimed Islamic State—despite ISIS’s loss of two major cities, four U.S. and military officials told The Daily Beast. In fact, there is some evidence that the number of fighters from Europe has increased in the last six months, one U.S. official said, from a total of 5,000 fighters six months ago to roughly 8,000 now. In other words, there’s been a 60 percent increase in these recruits in just half a year.