The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for two car bomb attacks that killed more than a dozen people in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad Tuesday. The first explosion took place at an ice cream shop just as people broke their Ramadan fast.
The attacks happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with the first bomb going off just after midnight at an ice cream shop in the commercial Karrada district of Baghdad. Reports of the death tolls vary between 13 and 15, with at least 30 people wounded.
While some have reported the bomb was a suicide attack, security sources in Baghdad speaking to the Guardian said the explosives were packed into a car parked outside the shop and were detonated remotely. The explosion was captured on camera, showing a huge fireball engulfing the building. Other videos shared on social media show the scene after the explosion, as dazed children wander around bodies lying on the ground.
The second attack happened during morning rush hour just hours later, near a government office on Shuhada Square. Again a car packed with explosives was detonated, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens more.
ISIS, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for both attacks on its Amaq news agency website, with the Sunni Islamist group saying the attacks were purposely designed to hit gatherings of Shia Muslims — whom they view as apostates that should be subject to the death penalty.
Brett McGurk, who is coordinating the international coalition fighting against ISIS, condemned the attack on Twitter: “ISIS terrorists tonight in Baghdad target children & families enjoying time together at an ice cream shop. We stand w/Iraq against this evil.”
The attack comes just days into the holy month of Ramadan during which Muslims fast during daylight hours before breaking their fast at sunset — with many families filling restaurants and cafes to do so. Ramadan is typically marked by an increase in violence in Iraq. A 2016 report issued by U.S. authorities warned citizens abroad to be mindful of the threat, saying:
“According to Islamic practice, sacrifice during Ramadan can be considered more valuable than that made at other times, so a call to martyrdom during the month may hold a special allure to some.”
The attack in the Karrada district will bring back memories of the devastating truck bomb that killed at least 324 people there in July 2016, the deadliest attack in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003.