Twin car bombings just hours apart have targeted two groups of people going about their daily lives in Baghdad — young families having a late night Ramadan snack and older city residents collecting their pensions.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for both attacks, which killed 21 people, through its affiliate news agency Amaq.
The first bomb, which killed 10 people and wounded 40 others, exploded at an ice cream shop in the heart of Baghdad in the early hours of Tuesday; eyewitnesses described ice cream mixed with blood as the wounded and dead covered the ground.
The second went off as elderly residents lined up outside the General Retirement Department waiting for their pensions to be handed out on Tuesday morning. Eleven people died, another 43 were wounded.
“It was a very, very ugly scene,” said journalist Hareth Al-Harethi, who was 20 meters away from the ice cream shop when the bomb exploded.
“The street was covered in toys, baby bottles, small shoes and men’s hats,” he told CNN.
Harethi said most of the victims he saw were women and children. At the hospital nearby treating the wounded, he saw mothers lying on the floor in grief.
Baghdad’s Karrada street, where the ice cream shop is located, is lined with popular restaurants and cafes. Young people and families usually fill the area at night, especially during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when city streets typically become busy with social gatherings.
Explosion ‘rocked neighborhood’
The second explosion, which witnesses say “rocked the neighborhood — targeted the elderly.
“Our life has become full of explosions… but this was not normal,” a shop owner near the Retirement Department told CNN.
He said that before the attack, the group of pensioners were waiting to go through security before entering the government building.
Ibrahim Al Zararee, 23, who was driving by when the explosion went off, told CNN that the area, the site of the city’s oldest marketplace, was buzzing with people.
“Every time this happens, everyone is gloomy,” said Al Zararee. “You can see in people’s face that they’re waiting to see what will happen next?”
Women and children targeted
Responding to the attacks, Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim Mohammad al-Araji said authorities would “track (ISIS) down wherever they may be.”
“They targeted a group of civilians; families, women and children in these nights of Ramadan and this is clear evidence that this organization is a terrorist one trying to kill civilians by any means,” he told journalists.
Last Ramadan, ISIS killed at least 40 people and wounded 74 others in an attack on a Shia mausoleum in Belad, Iraq. It called on its supporters to carry out more attacks during the holy Muslim month.
On Sunday, less than two days before the ice cream shop attack, a suicide bomber killed four security officers at a security checkpoint northeast of Baghdad. Ten people were wounded in the blast, which Iraqi police attributed to ISIS.
In 2014, ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Last October, Iraqi forces began an offensive to retake the city and on Saturday, security forces started an operation to take the remaining neighborhoods in western Mosul still under the group’s control.