Suicide attacks kill 23 people at Baghdad market

Citizens inspect the scene after a car bomb explosion at a crowded outdoor market in the Iraqi capital's eastern district of Sadr City, on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 09 January 2017
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Suicide attacks kill 23 people at Baghdad market

BAGHDAD: Suicide bombs at two marketplaces in Baghdad, one of them claimed by Daesh, killed at least 23 people on Sunday, police and medics said, the latest in a spate of militant attacks in the Iraqi capital that have left dozens dead.
“A soldier at the gate of Jamila market opened fire on a suicide car bomb after noticing a suspect vehicle but the terrorist blew up his car,” Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said.
In the first blast, the attacker drove an explosives-rigged car into a large vegetable market in the district of Jamila, and detonated it after security forces opened fire to try to stop the vehicle, police sources said.
A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest blew himself up a few hours later at a market in the Baladiyat district.
Daesh claimed carrying out the first attack in an online statement. A series of attacks in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities have killed more than 80 people in just over a week.
Several have been claimed by the Daesh, which is coming under increasing pressure from a US-backed offensive in Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq.
Iraqi forces have pushed Daesh out of much of the territory it once held, but this bombing and the many others that have preceded it highlight the danger the militants can pose to civilians even as they lose ground.
Iraqi forces advanced to within several hundred meters of the Tigris river than runs through Mosul on Saturday, as their operation against the militants gathers pace.
Daesh is likely to resort to bomb attacks and similar tactics elsewhere in Iraq as it is driven out of its Mosul stronghold.
Jamila is the main wholesale vegetable market in Baghdad and lies in Sadr City.
Salam Khalaf, the spokesman for a hospital in Sadr City, said that it received a headless body of a person killed in the Jamila attack who was apparently meant to be a second suicide bomber.
While a hospital employee was searching for the man’s identity card, he accidentally detonated a small explosive charge the man was carrying, blowing off a mortuary door but leaving him unharmed, Khalaf said.
The dead man was wearing an explosive belt but it did not go off, he added.
The police colonel also confirmed that the body of a person taken from the scene of the market attack later exploded at the mortuary.
Daesh issued an online statement claiming the market attack, using a nom de guerre indicating the bomber was Iraqi and saying that he targeted members of Iraq’s Shiite majority, whom the militants consider heretics.
Daesh claimed an attack on Jan. 2 — also in Sadr City — when a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle packed with explosives among a crowd of day laborers waiting for work, killing 35 people.
The militants overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in a swift 2014 offensive that swept through security forces unprepared for the assault.
The number of bombings in the capital declined following the June 2014 offensive, apparently because the militants were occupied with holding territory they seized and later defending against government attacks.
Federal forces and units from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region have since pushed Daesh back in a series of battles over a period of more than two years.
On Oct. 17, Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to recapture Mosul, the country’s last city in which Daesh still holds significant ground.
Iraqi forces punched into the city from the east, retook a series of neighborhoods and are now approaching the Tigris River, which divides the city into its eastern and western sides.
The western side, which is the smaller but more densely populated of the two, remains entirely under Daesh control.
Iraqi forces have also launched an operation to recapture Daesh-held towns near the Syrian border that along with Mosul and the northern town of Tal Afar are among the last populated areas under militant control.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said in late December that three months were needed to eliminate Daesh in the country.
But even if the militants no longer openly hold territory, they can still strike at Iraqi civilians and security forces with bombings and hit-and-run attacks.


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.