Bombs hit markets in Baghdad, killing at least 36

Iraqi security forces and people gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite district of Sadr City, Iraq, on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily)
Updated 17 May 2016

Bombs hit markets in Baghdad, killing at least 36

BAGHDAD: A wave of bombings struck outdoor markets in Shiite-dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 69 people, officials said — the latest in deadly militant attacks far from the front lines in the country’s north and west where Iraqi forces are battling the Daesh group.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though it bore the hallmarks of the extremist Daesh group, which has been behind recent deadly attacks in the Iraqi capital and beyond. Since its blitz in the summer of 2014, Daesh has controlled significant areas in northern and western Iraq, including the country’s second-largest city of Mosul.
Scores have also been wounded in the wave of attacks.
The death toll rose after a bombing in the northeastern Baghdad neighborhood of Habibiyah killed nine people and wounded 18 early on Tuesday afternoon. Police officials say the attack targeted a restaurant.
In the largest attack of the day, a car bomb struck a crowded market in Baghdad’s northeastern Shaab neighborhood, killing 34 people there and wounded 75. Elsewhere in the Iraqi capital, at least 26 were killed.
The deadliest bombing on Tuesday took place in Baghdad’s northeastern Shaab neighborhood, where at least 28 people died and 65 others were wounded.
A roadside bomb first exploded outside the concrete blast walls surrounding the open-air market, followed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up as people gathered to help the victims of the first explosion, a police officer said.
Commercial and public places in Shiite-dominated areas are among the most frequent targets for the Sunni militants seeking to undermine the Iraqi government efforts to maintain security inside the capital.
But the Daesh has not confined its latest attacks only to Baghdad.
Earlier Tuesday, Iraqi oil workers resumed work at a natural gas plant north of Baghdad, two days after a coordinated Daesh dawn assault left at least 14 people dead there, a senior Oil Ministry official said.
Sunday’s spectacular attack in the town of Taji, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baghdad, saw a suicide car bombing at the facility’s main gate, followed by several Daesh fighters breaking into the plant where they clashed with security forces for hours before the attackers were repelled.
The dead included six civilians and eight security forces while 27 Iraqi troops were wounded. Closed-circuit television images showed an explosion that sent thick black smoke rising above the plant. As flames engulfed the facility and nearby palm trees, pedestrians were seen running for cover. The top of one of the gas-processing units was blown off.
It took hours before Iraqi troops repelled the attackers.
On Tuesday, work at the plant’s three production lines returned “to normal levels,” said Deputy Oil Minister Hamid Younes.
The plant was back to full capacity of producing 30,000 cooking gas cylinders a day, he said, adding that Sunday’s attack had only damaged two gas storages and a few pipelines. Iraqi state TV showed workers in navy blue overalls filling metal and plastic cylinders on conveyor belts and forklift trucks loading cylinders into trucks.
The assault on Taji came as Daesh militants are being pushed back along several front lines in Iraq, prompting the Sunni extremists to increasingly turn to insurgency-style attacks to detract from their losses.
Daesh-claimed attacks have killed more than 140 people since last week in Iraq. In 2014, the Daesh declared an Islamic caliphate on the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria and at the height of its power was estimated to hold nearly a third of both Iraq and Syria. Iraq’s government says the group’s hold has since shrunk to 14 percent of Iraq’s territory.
Associated Press writers Murtada Faraj and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 48 min 9 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.