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Islamists Find Baghdad a Target-Rich Environment

  • Chris Hannas

Iraqis grieve during the funeral procession of bomb victim, Akram Hadi, 24, who was killed in a massive truck bomb attack in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, July 5, 2016.

Iraqis grieve during the funeral procession of bomb victim, Akram Hadi, 24, who was killed in a massive truck bomb attack in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, July 5, 2016.

Baghdad province is one of the smallest in Iraq but it is home to more of the country's population than any other. It is also where, month after month, more people are killed by acts of terrorism or armed violence than anywhere else.

United Nations data from June showed 236 of the 382 civilians killed in Iraq last month died in Baghdad. Those numbers will go up in July, after Sunday's suicide truck bombing in the city of Baghdad killed at least 175 people and wounded 200 others.

Rescuers are still going through the blast site in the Karrada district looking for people who are missing in one of the deadliest attacks to hit the capital since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying they were targeting the Shi'ites.

The attack came near the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time when U.N. envoy for Iraq Jan Kubis had hoped there would be a lull in violence.

Mourners carry the coffin of their relative, who was killed in a suicide vehicle bomb in the Karrada shopping area in Baghdad, during the funeral in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, July 3, 2016.

Mourners carry the coffin of their relative, who was killed in a suicide vehicle bomb in the Karrada shopping area in Baghdad, during the funeral in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, July 3, 2016.

"The terrorists did not spare an occasion to strike at markets, mosques and areas where people gathered in order to exact maximum casualties among civilians, despite the religious occasion and in total disregard for the values of Islam," Kubis said.

Sunday's attack in Baghdad points to the militants' continued ability to mount their campaign of violence as Iraqi forces fight them on the ground and a U.S.-led coalition bombs them from the air.

Iraqi firefighters and civilians carry bodies of victims killed in a car bomb at a commercial area in Karrada, Baghdad, July 3, 2016.

Iraqi firefighters and civilians carry bodies of victims killed in a car bomb at a commercial area in Karrada, Baghdad, July 3, 2016.

Islamic State swept into control of large areas in northern and western Iraq, and eastern Syria, two years ago. That offensive coincided with a huge jump in casualties among civilians and Iraqi security forces that peaked at more than 2,600 deaths in June 2014. It fell to 1,466 in June 2015 and 662 last month.

With the violence persisting, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi got an angry reception Sunday when he visited the area of the truck bombing, with some people throwing stones and other objects to express their contempt. He ordered tighter security measures in Baghdad.

The government also announced Monday the execution of five convicted terrorists and said authorities had arrested 40 people suspected of planning more attacks.

Deadliest IS Attacks in Iraq This Year

July 3: Suicide truck bombing kills 175 in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood

June 9: Two suicide bombers kill more than 20 in Baghdad

May 17: Wave of bombs across Baghdad kill almost 70

May 11: Car bombs in Baghdad kill more than 75, deadliest attack was at Sadr City market

March 25: Suicide blast kills 30 south of Baghdad

March 6: Suicide truck bomber kills 47 in Hilla

February 28: Attacks across Baghdad kill dozens

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