Attack on Shia shrine kills 37 in Iraq

Iraqi policemen inspect the aftermath scene of a mortar and bombing attack on the Sayyid Mohammed shrine in the Balad area, located 70 kilometres (around 45 miles) north of Baghdad, on July 8, 2016. Islamic State group militants killed 30 people at the Shiite shrine, striking the area with suicide bombers, gunfire and mortar rounds, an Iraqi security spokesman said. The attack came just five days after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged minibus in the capital, killing 292 people. / AFP PHOTO / Ahmad al-RubayeAHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images©AFP

Militants launched an assault on a Shia shrine north of Baghdad killing 37 people

Militants killed 37 people and wounded 62 in an assault on a Shia shrine north of Baghdad where families were celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end Ramadan.

The attack with mortar rounds and suicide bombers came days after 300 people were killed by a truck bomb in a busy shopping district in the Iraqi capital. The violence undermined claims by Iraqi officials that military gains made against Isis would increase security.

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The assault on the Sayyid Mohammed shrine in Balad, 80km north of Baghdad, began on Thursday evening when militants fired mortar rounds at the mausoleum and suicide bombers and gunmen then entered the area.

For the second year in a row, Isis used the Muslim holy month to launch a wave of attacks, including the Baghdad bombing and a siege at a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which claimed 20 lives. Turkish officials blamed Isis for an attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, which killed more than 40 people. Suicide bombers also launched attacks in three cities in Saudi Arabia on Monday, killing four security guards.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Balad. Police said one bomber blew himself up close to security forces at the entrance. A second then entered, surrounded by gunmen who fired on police and families worshipping at the shrine. A third was killed before detonating his bomb, police said.

Isis has stepped up attacks on civilians in Iraq as it loses territory to the US-led international campaign. The bombings have stoked anger among Iraqis already protesting against the government for its inability to implement reforms to curb corruption.

The bombing of a Shia sites is aimed at exacerbating sectarianism in Iraq, which has already been at a high in recent years with the growth of Isis. The radical Sunni group considers Shia apostates and seeks to exploit the tensions. In response, many Shia militias have been formed and rights groups accuse them of sectarian abuses that risk fanning the flames.

Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, fired Baghdad’s security chief on Friday after the shrine attack, the Associated Press reported.

The attacks underline the conclusions of a report released this week by the UK’s Chilcot inquiry, which said Britain failed in its objectives of stabilising the country after the US-led 2003 invasion.

Locator map showing Balad and Baghdad

After Saddam Hussein was ousted, Iraq’s institutions, including the security forces, were dismantled. The invasion also unleashed sectarian tensions between Iraq’s Shia majority, which now dominates the government, and the Sunni minority that was stripped of power and from which Isis draws many of its supporters.

About 160,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in violence since Saddam was toppled.

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