Militants on Monday unleashed a series of attacks in Shiite-majority neighbourhoods in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killing at least 16 civilians, officials said.
The deadliest attack took place in the south-western neighbourhood of Al-Amil when a bomber set off his explosives-laden vest in a busy outdoor market, killing seven shoppers and wounding up to 25 others, a police officer said.
Another suicide attacker on foot blew himself up among residents of the eastern neighbourhood of Mashtal as they were preparing for next week’s Ashoura rituals.
At least six civilians were killed and 21 others wounded, another police officer said. Three more civilians were killed and 10 wounded in a bomb explosion in a commercial area in the northern Sabi Al-Bor area, police added.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to release information.
In statements posted online, the Daesh group claimed responsibility for the attacks in Al Amil and Mahstal neighbourhood, saying they were targeting Shiites. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statements, but they were posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the third attack, which also bore the hallmarks of Daesh.
Despite a series of battlefield defeats in recent months, the group still controls key areas in Iraq, including the northern city of Mosul. The Iraqi government is preparing to launch a major military operation, with air support from the US-led coalition, to retake Mosul this year.
As it has lost territory, Daesh has increasingly turned to insurgent-style attacks away from the front lines in an attempt to distract security forces and undermine government efforts to maintain security.
Violence claimed the lives of at least 1,003 Iraqis last month, including 609 civilians, according to the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq, known as UNAMI. At least 1,159 people were wounded in September.
In August, at least 691 Iraqis were killed and another 1,016 were wounded, according to UNAMI.
Shuttle diplomacy by the United States’ envoy to the anti-Daesh coalition brokered an oil deal between Iraq and its Kurdish region vital to a climactic battle with the extremists, diplomats, officials and oil men say.
The oil revenue-sharing deal sealed in August was critical to getting the central and regional governments to co-ordinate planning for a push on the Daesh stronghold Mosul, which Kurdish peshmerga forces surround on three sides, as soon as this month, the sources said.
Brett McGurk shuttled from Iraqi Kurdistan capital Erbil to Baghdad and back again from the first half of April, culminating in a June 19 meeting in Erbil with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani and Iraqi National Security Advisor Falah Fayad.
Barzani “met McGurk and said, ‘We cannot afford Mosul. We need oil and revenues back,” said a high level source close to the Kurds. “If it wasn’t for McGurk, this deal would have never happened.”
The Kurdish region is home to Iraq’s major northern oilfields but a quarrel over who benefits from export revenues has become a prolonged, tangled and emotive dispute.
In early 2014 Baghdad slashed funds to the KRG, which then began exporting oil independently via a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
In March Iraq’s state-run North Oil Company (NOC) stopped pumping crude through the pipeline from fields it operates in Kirkuk, which the KRG has controlled since Iraqi security forces disintegrated two years ago when Daesh overran a third of the country.