Nearly two days after a suicide truck bomb ripped through Baghdad, families are still hoping that rescuers searching through the rubble can locate the bodies of their loved ones.
The Saturday night attack on a busy shopping district was the deadliest single incident in the Iraq’s war-weary capital in years, killing at least 200 people, Mohamed al-Rubaye, the deputy head of the security committee of the Baghdad Provincial Council, said on Afaq TV Monday.
Crews are still on the scene in the Karrada neighborhood where the blast occurred, trying to pull bodies from the devastation.
And 81 of the bodies are so charred, DNA testing will need to be conducted in order to identify them, al-Rubaye said.
One couple at the scene was searching for their teenage son who’d gone to a cafe with his friends to celebrate his birthday.
Another man was looking for five of his relatives, including children, who were buying new clothes for Eid-al-Fitr — the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan on Tuesday.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. It was the latest in a string of assaults during the holy month for Muslims, a period of fasting and prayer, and also a time when jihadists launch operations against those they regard as their enemies.
A second bomb exploded Sunday at an outdoor market in the Shaab neighborhood of southeastern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five others, police said.
Both Baghdad strikes are a sign of the Sunni-Shiite tension in the Muslim world. Sunni-dominated ISIS claimed it was targeting Shiite neighborhoods. Karrada and Shaab are predominately Shiite neighborhoods.
ISIS said it would carry out more terror attacks during Ramadan. The Baghdad bombing came just days after massacres at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and security targets in Yemen. There have also been recent suicide attacks in Jordan and Lebanon.
Last month, a gunman shot up a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and an attacker killed a police commander and his partner in France.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for some of these attacks, while others were inspired by the terror group, authorities say.
Witness: ‘I lost several friends’
In Karrada, college student Sadeq al Zawini, 25, was watching as rescue workers pulled bodies from the rubble.
“We’ve had it with the Iraqi government and politicians. They can’t continue blaming Daesh and other terrorist groups. We need a solution,” he said. “I lost several friends myself, some are still missing,” he said, sobbing.
The anger of residents manifested itself when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other officials attempted to survey the bomb damage.
Amateur videos posted on social media showed residents throwing objects at a convoy carrying al-Abadi in Karrada. The videos showed protesters yelling “thief!” and “get out!”
Al-Abadi called the Karrada strike “dastardly” and “cowardly” and announced that the country will hold a three-day mourning period.
In a statement, al-Abadi said he understands the reaction in “that moment of grief” by the residents who threw objects at his convoy.
He said he came to Karrada to console families and “share their sorrow in this painful tragedy that happened.”
He said ISIS tried to hijack the joy that Iraqis felt over recent victories against ISIS in Falluja.
Bombing follows Iraqi gains on ISIS
This flurry of ISIS strikes during Ramadan comes as the United States says the group is losing ground in the warfare across Syria and Iraq.
Iraqi forces announced last week they have seized the city of Falluja, 40 miles west of Baghdad, from ISIS. At the time, authorities assured Baghdad residents that the bombings would stop.
But Cedric Leighton, a CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, thinks the attacks will worsen and said that is ISIS’ game plan, to generate instability.
“They are trying to create enough chaos in Iraq itself so that the Iraqi forces will find it very difficult to actually take advantage of the forward momentum they have achieved because of their victory in Falluja and that is a very serious issue that the al-Abadi administration is going to have to address.”
Such attacks, like the one in Baghdad will serve to drive a wedge between the government and the people, in particular the Shiites.
“The wedge was already there and its fairly easy for them to exploit this,” he said.