|People look at a burned vehicle at the site of the car bomb in Baghdad. Photo: Reuters|
BAGHDAD – An ISIS car bomb killed 24 people in Baghdad's Sadr City district on Monday. The militants also attacked two police stations in the city of Samarra as Iraqi forces fought to oust the group from Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq.
At least four other attacks across Baghdad, some also claimed by ISIS, killed nine more people earlier in the day, bringing the total death toll from bombings in the capital over the past three days to more than 60.
In the attacks in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, security sources said multiple gunmen wearing suicide vests took over two police stations, killing at least seven policemen.
The mayor of Samarra, Mahmoud Khalaf, said security forces had regained control, killing at least six assailants, but declined to comment on the number of casualties on the government side.
The pro-ISIS news agency Amaq said the militants had executed some policemen.
ISIS said Monday's attacks in Baghdad were revenge for "the repeated targeting of health institutions in Nineveh province" by the U.S.-led coalition backing Iraqi forces.
After Monday's attacks U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirkby reaffirmed Washington's commitment to support Iraq.
"These vicious acts of mass murder are a sobering reminder of the need to continue coalition operations against Daesh and to eliminate the threat this terrorist group poses," he said.
Monday's blast in Sadr City hit a busy square where day laborers typically gather. ISIS said in an online statement it had targeted Shi'ite Muslims, whom it considers apostates. Sixty-seven people were wounded in the blast.
Nine of the victims were women in a passing minibus, whose charred bodies were visible inside the burnt-out remains of the vehicle. Blood stained the ground nearby.
The upsurge in violence comes as U.S-backed Iraqi forces try to drive ISIS from the northern city of Mosul, where the militants are putting up fierce resistance.
ISIS has lost most of the territory it seized in a blitz across northern and western Iraq in 2014 and ceding Mosul would probably spell the end of its self-styled caliphate. But it would still be capable of waging a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq and plotting or inspiring attacks on the West.
"The terrorists will attempt to attack civilians in order to make up for their losses, but we assure the Iraqi people and the world that we are able to end terrorism and shorten its life," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said after talks with visiting French President Francois Hollande.