Baghdad: Iraq began on Monday a three-day national mourning for victims of Sunday’s car bombing attacks in Baghdad as the death toll rose to 166.
An Interior Ministry source said at least 165 people were killed and 225 wounded in a devastating suicide bomb attack in Karrada-Dakhil district in southern Baghdad on Sunday. The death toll could rise as many wounded are in critical condition.
Another person one was killed in a separate car bombing in a market in northeastern Baghdad.
The Karrada-Dakhil bombing was the bloodiest attack this year in Iraq, where the army is fighting Islamic State militants.
The busy commercial district in southern Baghdad was hit by the car bomb at about 1.00 a.m. when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden pickup truck outside a shopping centre.
The three-floor building was destroyed when many people were inside. Many of the victims were women and children. Rescuers said the explosion and the following huge fire killed all members in some families.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced three days of national mourning for the victims after he visited the blast site on Sunday.
His convoy was attacked by dozens of angry residents who accused the government of failing to protect its people.
Local resident Mohammed Musa said: “Now we demand a solution from the government because since 2003 to 2016 we have been uncomfortable, we are in a difficult situation. And those people, all of them lost their money, property and lives and other things. Everything is gone.”
As the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, Abadi ordered intensification of security measures at the entrances of Baghdad and in other Iraqi provinces.
Sunday’s powerful blast set fire to the shopping centre and four nearby buildings while many shops and stalls were charred and destroyed, as well as dozens of civilian vehicles at the scene.
The fire was put out in the afternoon and rescue operations continued till night.
Dozens of rescue workers, fire fighters and civilians were removing debris and burned wreckage from dawn to the evening, looking for survivors and bodies.
The attack happened when many families and young people were in the crowded thoroughfare where many shoppers were preparing their families for Id ul-Fitr scheduled to start on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, another car bomb went off in a market in northeastern Baghdad, leaving one dead and five wounded, the source added.
The bloody bombings have been claimed by the Islamic State (IS), which said that one of its suicide bombers detonated his car bomb at a crowd of Shia people.
During his visit to the explosion site in Karrada, Abadi vowed to punish those behind the attacks.
“The terrorist groups carried out such desperate deadly attacks as a result of being crushed in the battlefield,” he said, referring to the government’s recent victory of retaking Fallujah city from IS in the country’s western province of Anbar.
The IS has frequently targeted security forces and areas where crowds of people gather, including markets, cafes and mosques, across Iraq.
Observers said there could be more attacks against military targets and civilians in the future as the army advances to the last IS stronghold of Mosul.
Iraq has been hit by a wave of violence since the IS seized large parts in Iraq’s northern and western regions since 2014.