BAGHDAD, July 3 (UPI) — The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion late Saturday that killed at least 125 people in the heart of Baghdad’s busiest shopping area. The number of dead continued to rise throughout the day Sunday.
The suicide bombing is reportedly the deadliest attack in Iraq since 2007, CNN reported.
Iraq declared three days of national mourning following the explosive attack in the affluent neighborhood of Karrada, The Telegraph reported.
A car bomb exploded near a shopping area and restaurant late in the day in the central District of Karrada while the streets were filled with shopping families breaking their fast after sundown as part of the holy month of Ramadan, BBC reported. Some reports said the bomb was made from a refrigerator filled with explosives.
Between 160 and 200 people were reported injured.
A number of children were among the dead, Al Jazeera reported. Officials said the death toll is likely to rise as more bodies are pulled from the rubble left after buildings in the area exploded
Firefighters pulled out people trapped in the rubble caused by the massive blast. A coffee shop, stores and a gym all were damaged or destroyed.
The terrorist group, in a statement that has not been independently verified, took responsibility and said it purposely targeted Shia muslims, Sky News reported.
A second blast after midnight reportedly killed five more. No group has claimed responsibility for the second attack.
The United States released a strongly worded statement Sunday condemning IS for the attacks.
“The United States strongly condemns ISIL’s [IS] heinous terrorist attacks in Baghdad last night that killed over 100 people, including families gathering to break their Ramadan fast and those joining millions around the world in watching the Euro Cup,” said Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council.
“We remain united with the Iraqi people and government in our combined efforts to destroy ISIL” Price said. “These attacks only strengthen our resolve to support Iraqi security forces as they continue to take back territory from ISIL, just as we continue to intensify our efforts to root out ISIL’s terrorist network and leaders.”
“These acts of mass murder are yet another example of Da’esh’s contempt for human life,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby, using another term for IS. “From Baghdad to Istanbul, Brussels, Dhaka, and Paris, Daesh terrorists murder the innocent to attract attention and recruits. They will not succeed.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the blast scene early Sunday and was met by an angry crowd yelling at him, throwing objects at his convoy and calling him a thief.
Abadi issued a statement later saying he understood the crowd’s reaction in “that moment of grief. He said he came to Karrada to console the families experiencing sorry and loss and said IS tried to hijack the joy Iraqi citizens have felt lately in recently victories against IS.
The bombings near Baghdad come after the Iraqi army fully liberated the city of Fallujah from IS on June 25.
Two years ago, IS reportedly controlled nearly one-third of Iraq. The militant group now controls just 14 percent, Abadi said.
The bombing took place just after IS claimed responsibility for the attack on a cafe in Bangladesh that left 20 dead, some hacked to death with knives and swords, the New York Times reported. It also occurred just days after a coordinated suicide attack in Istanbul’s main airport that left 40 dead. IS did not claim responsibility but the Turkish government blamed the extremist group.