Security ordered tightened as death toll in Baghdad hits 175
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi authorities say more dead bodies have been recovered from the site of the massive weekend suicide bombing in central Baghdad, bringing the death toll to 175.
The staggering death toll, announced on Tuesday, comes as Iraqis mourn ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, under the pall of one the worst bombings in 13 years of war.
An Islamic State suicide bomber struck Baghdad's bustling commercial area of Karada on Sunday night, after people came out after breaking their daily fast.
The bombing showed the IS capability for launching attacks beyond the front lines, despite battlefield losses elsewhere in the country.
Iraq's embattled prime minister ordered new security measures Monday, including abandoning the use of bomb-detection wands that U.S. experts pronounced worthless years ago.
But security forces were still using the devices Monday evening, as a string of smaller bombings in the capital killed 16 people and wounded dozens more.
Sunday's suicide attack by the Islamic State group was the single deadliest bombing to hit Baghdad in more than a decade of war and insurgency. Police say there are still people missing and that the death toll could rise further. At least 190 people were wounded.
The blast struck after midnight when the neighborhood was bustling with people breaking their daylight fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The attack demonstrated the Islamic State's ability to strike the capital despite a string of defeats on the battlefield, including the loss of Fallujah just over a week ago.
With public anger mounting, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered new security measures Sunday evening, including increased aerial scanning and intelligence-gathering in the capital and the installation of X-ray systems at the entrances of provinces.
He also ordered security forces to stop using a handheld electronic device that was widely sold as a bomb detector but has been repeatedly branded bogus by technical experts. And he ordered the reopening of an investigation into the purchase of the ADE 651s, which cost the Iraqi government tens of thousands of dollars each.
In 2010, British authorities arrested the director of the British manufacturer, ATSC Ltd., on fraud charges, prompting Iraqis to open their own investigation. Iraqi authorities made some arrests, but the device remained in use.
On Monday evening, Associated Press reporters saw a number of the devices still being used at checkpoints around the capital as another round of blasts erupted.
Many Iraqis blame their political leadership for the way large amounts of explosives have made it past multiple checkpoints into crowded neighborhoods with disastrous results.
Small-scale bombings occur on a near-daily basis in Baghdad, and in May a string of large-scale bombings, many of them claimed by IS, killed more than 200 people in a single week.
In February, Amnesty International reported that the number of Iraqis sentenced to death in 2016 was close to 100, calling the figure a "grim indicator of the current state of justice in the country."
Later Monday, about 10 rockets struck a refugee camp for Iranian exiles next to Baghdad's international airport, according to a Baghdad police official. The attack killed three Iraqi policemen and wounded 13 others, according to a hospital official.
Shahin Gobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the Iranian exile group, said more than 4o residents were wounded in the rocket attack. The casualty figure could not be independently confirmed.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information to the media.