Anger erupts after Iraq blast kills more than 100 in crowded marketplace

The attack happened at people gathered to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 July, 2015, 9:44pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 July, 2015, 9:44pm

An attack by the Islamic State group on a crowded marketplace in Iraq's eastern Diyala province that killed 115 people, including women and children, struck an "ugly sectarian chord", the country's top Sunni politician said yesterday.

The mostly Shiite victims were gathered to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended on Friday for Iraqi Shiites while for Iraqi Sunni Muslims it ended a day earlier.

Police said a small truck was detonated in a crowded marketplace in the town of Khan Beni Saad on Friday night in what quickly turned celebrations into a scene of horror, with body parts scattered across the market. At least 115 people were killed in the attack, police officials said, and at least 170 were wounded. Men quickly emptied boxes of tomatoes to use them for carrying the bodies of small children, witnesses said, while adult victims lay scattered around the attack scene waiting for medical assistance.

"Khan Bani Saad has become a disaster area because of this huge explosion," Diyala resident Sayif Ali said. "This is the first day of Eid, hundreds of people got killed, many injured, and we are still searching for more bodies."

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its associated Twitter accounts.

Iraq's speaker of parliament, Salim al-Jabouri, said the government was making "attempts to regulate Daesh's terror from destabilising Diyala security", referring to the militant group by its Arabic acronym. But anger is rife in the volatile province, where a number of towns were captured by the Islamic State group last year. Iraqi forces and Kurdish fighters have since retaken those areas, but clashes with the militants continue.

"We went out to the market for shopping and preparations for the holiday Eid in order to receive holiday cheer," said another resident. "But this joy has turned to grief and we have lost family, friends and relatives, all because of this government's failure to provide us with security."

Security forces were out in full force across Diyala yesterday, with dozens of new checkpoints and security protocols implemented in the wake of Friday's attack.