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Islamic State car bomb in Iraqi capital kills more than 140


    Iraqi women wait to hear about family members who went missing after a car bomb hit Karada, a busy shopping district in the center of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, July 3, 2016. Dozens of people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in two separate bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital Sunday morning, Iraqi officials said.

BAGHDAD >> As Iraqis gathered late Saturday night in central Baghdad to eat, shop and just be together to celebrate one of the last evenings of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a huge bomb exploded and killed at least 143 people, the third mass slaughter of civilians in three countries carried out by the Islamic State in recent days.

The attack, which occurred shortly after midnight in the middle-class neighborhood of Karada, a busy area of cafes, shops and hotels, was the deadliest single attack in Baghdad this year and was the first major assault in the capital since Iraqi forces retook Fallujah from the Islamic State late last month. Fallujah had been in the hands of the Islamic State for 2 1/2 years, longer than any other in Iraq or Syria, and many Iraqis had feared that after its liberation the Islamic State would strike back with more terrorist attacks in Baghdad.

The Sunni extremists of the Islamic State almost immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying it had killed a gathering of Shiite Muslims. But Karada is a mixed area where Iraqis of all identities gather to do ordinary things: mainly to shop and eat.

By daybreak Sunday in Baghdad, fires were still burning at the bombing site, while hospitals tended to the wounded, and mourners prepared for funerals. Some bodies were believed to be still buried in the rubble of a shopping mall. Along with the deaths, at least 195 people were injured, officials said Sunday afternoon. Baghdad Operations Command, which is in charge of security in the capital, was quick to announce that it had arrested a terrorist “cell” in the city that was linked to the bombing.

Many of the victims were children — the explosion struck near a three-story complex of cafes and shops where families were celebrating a successful end of the school year, residents said — and on Sunday dozens of people were still unaccounted for.

The scenes were another brutal illustration of the paradox Iraq faces as its security forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, make gains against the Islamic State: As more territory is won back, the group is reverting to its roots as a guerrilla insurgency, turning Baghdad once again into a killing field.

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