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After Fall of ISIS, Iraq’s Second-Largest City Picks Up the Pieces

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MOSUL, Iraq — In the heat of the late summer sun, weeks after the end of one of the largest urban battles since World War II, a high school principal trekked from his home in east Mosul to the west bank of the Tigris River to confront the ruins of his life’s work.

Bordering Mosul’s Old City, his stately Ottoman-era school, where generations of Iraqi political and military leaders studied, lay in ruin. Two campus buildings had been leveled by American coalition airstrikes during the battle against the Islamic State. Century-old stone walls were scarred from shrapnel. The once-gleaming computer lab, library and theater, which in 2014 presented a student production of “Macbeth,” were torched by retreating Islamic State fighters.

The scale of devastation at the place he hoped to mold Iraq’s next generation of leaders drew a flutter of despair from the principal, Muthana Saleh. But then he harnessed the traits that residents of Mosul are famous for: ingenuity and industriousness. This month, thanks in part of volunteers and an Iraqi donor, he is planning to restart classes for 450 students.

“We solve problems,” he said. “We find resources. We find a way. It’s the spirit of Mosul.”

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For three years, this metropolis of three million people, Iraq’s second-largest city, lived under the harsh rule of the Islamic State. When the militant group was finally ousted in July, it signaled the beginning of the end of its self-declared caliphate, which once occupied a third of the country and much of Syria. American-backed Iraqi forces swept across the country, officially declaring the job finished this weekend.

But the battle for Mosul lasted nearly nine months, killing thousands of people, displacing nearly a million and leaving entire districts in smoldering heaps of rubble.

Continue reading the main story

MOSUL, Iraq — In the heat of the late summer sun, weeks after the end of one of the largest urban battles since World War II, a high school principal trekked from his home in east Mosul to the west bank of the Tigris River to confront the ruins of his life’s work.

Bordering Mosul’s Old City, his stately Ottoman-era school, where generations of Iraqi political and military leaders studied, lay in ruin. Two campus buildings had been leveled by American coalition airstrikes during the battle against the Islamic State. Century-old stone walls were scarred from shrapnel. The once-gleaming computer lab, library and theater, which in 2014 presented a student production of “Macbeth,” were torched by retreating Islamic State fighters.

The scale of devastation at the place he hoped to mold Iraq’s next generation of leaders drew a flutter of despair from the principal, Muthana Saleh. But then he harnessed the traits that residents of Mosul are famous for: ingenuity and industriousness. This month, thanks in part of volunteers and an Iraqi donor, he is planning to restart classes for 450 students.

“We solve problems,” he said. “We find resources. We find a way. It’s the spirit of Mosul.”

For three years, this metropolis of three million people, Iraq’s second-largest city, lived under the harsh rule of the Islamic State. When the militant group was finally ousted in July, it signaled the beginning of the end of its self-declared caliphate, which once occupied a third of the country and much of Syria. American-backed Iraqi forces swept across the country, officially declaring the job finished this weekend.

But the battle for Mosul lasted nearly nine months, killing thousands of people, displacing nearly a million and leaving entire districts in smoldering heaps of rubble.

Around 600,000 people remain displaced, and approximately 60,000 homes are uninhabitable. The city’s business and government sectors are crippled, with at least 20,000 commercial and government buildings destroyed, according to aerial images commissioned by the United Nations.

The west side in particular sustained apocalyptic damage. It took six months of grinding street-by-street battles and aerial bombardment to free the area, including the labyrinthine Old City, where the militants made their last stand.

“Mosul is a tale of two cities,” said Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator in Iraq and head of the United Nations Development Program. “In east Mosul, more than 95 percent of people are home. On the west side, it’s a completely different picture. Yet people are rolling up their sleeves and determined to get their lives back.”

Since the summer, the international community has spent about $400 million to help restore electricity, water and medical services, and donor countries, along with the Iraqi government, are struggling to create and finance a comprehensive multibillion-dollar redevelopment plan.

In the interim, Muslawis — as Mosul residents are called — have mustered their own resources and philanthropic spirit to breathe new life into the city.

The highways leading to Mosul are clogged with flatbed trucks bringing in commercial goods and construction materials. On both sides of the river, gleaming rows of washing machines, space heaters and children’s bikes are for sale. Restaurants, especially those with family sections, are doing a roaring business.

On Nov. 30, a Mosul nonprofit organized a marathon and shorter foot races for children, an event that drew around 4,000 people.

“We are excited to change the atmosphere of Mosul,” said Feras Khalil, an engineer supervising the reconstruction of Fountain Square, a park along a main commercial street on Mosul’s east side. “We want to give the opportunity for our neighbors to breathe fresh air after defeating Daesh,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

On the east side, the sprawling Mosul University campus hums with activity from the 30,000 students — men and women — who are attending classes this fall. Hundreds of students from other parts of Iraq have also re-enrolled, a testament, they say, to their parents’ confidence about security.

For centuries, Mosul has been a center of learning. In the Middle Ages, scholars here pioneered surgical techniques and medical instruments still used by contemporary doctors. The university remains highly regarded for its medical and science graduates.

During Islamic State rule, however, most classes ground to a halt, both because the group forbade the teaching of what it considered sinful or irrelevant subjects, like art and philosophy, and because professors and students were afraid to venture out of their homes.

The campus, like most areas of Mosul, shows scars of conflict. United States coalition airstrikes destroyed four science buildings that the Islamic State had been using as weapons research labs. University administrators say they have no idea how to replace the millions of books from their library, a repository for historic manuscripts and research materials, that were burned by the Islamic State, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in science equipment.

Yet staff and students have tackled smaller tasks on their own.

Professor Intisar Abdel Rada, who has taught accounting for 18 years, helped supervise a group of professors and students who raised money to repair ceilings and electrical wiring in her department’s classrooms, and cleaned and painted lecture halls, work that enabled classes to resume last month. “It’s like we were dead but have been resuscitated,” she said while rushing between her lectures.

A few miles away, at Al Khansaa Pediatric and Maternity Hospital, the director, Dr. Jamal Younis, worked throughout the summer with international aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders to solve critical needs, like installing generators and incubators to keep the city’s only maternity ward and pediatric surgery theaters operational.

He still faces frequent gaps in the daily operating budget — in October an average of four babies were born at Al Khansaa each day — but the staff struggled to maintain stocks like surgical gloves and food for patients.

For now, his problem solver is Dr. Saad Salih, a surgeon who counts members of Mosul’s wealthiest families as friends.

When medicine earmarked for the hospital was stuck in Erbil about 60 miles away, a phone call to a local businessman raised the $500 needed to rent two flatbed trucks to transport the drugs to Mosul. Calls to pharmacy owners have brought in donations of bandages and surgical supplies.

Prominent Iraqis outside Mosul have also pitched in. Dr. Salih said a group of British Iraqis had sent funds for hospital supplies. Last week, a man delivered an envelope with $1,200 from a Baghdad-based surgeon who was born in Mosul and wanted to help her hometown.

“We lived through decades where people did not trust each other in Iraq,” Dr. Salih said. “That’s the truth and a big challenge facing us now. But somehow, now it’s different. People really are motivated to help one another.”

Across the river, in the Old City, the few residents lucky enough to have their homes still standing say they also are invigorated by community spirit.

Talal Muhammad, a father of four, has run a small shop in the Old City’s Bab al Bedh district selling dairy goods for 30 years. A Muslawi philanthropist gave him the equivalent of $850 last month to help repair his refrigerators. Those funds helped kick-start a flickering commercial renaissance. Now, amid the rubble, nine shops have reopened.

Intisar Mehdi, the matriarch of her 20-member family, said she was the last person to leave the during the fighting this summer and the first to return. She immediately put her four children and 10 grandchildren to work cleaning the ashes and rubble from their house and fix piping to their well.

A month ago, she says, her winding lane was quiet and isolated. Now, it’s filled with noise from an army of toddlers and the chatter of housewives exchanging information about developments in the city.

About a mile away, at the Sharqiya Secondary School, Mr. Saleh, the principal, is using the challenge of rebuilding as a teachable moment, reflecting the motto that hangs on one of the school’s old stone walls: “The misfortunes of some can be turned into an advantage for others.”

Since August, Mr. Saleh has been fielding calls from dozens of teachers and hundreds of parents pleading to resume classes.

He persuaded the police commander responsible for his area to secure the school grounds from bombs and other dangerous material.

In October, he organized teachers and administrators in shifts to clear rubble and burned equipment from several buildings. The police commander then put him in touch with a Baghdad-based charity that wanted to donate building equipment.

Now, Mr. Saleh says, he will transform his 450 waiting students into a volunteer work force. This week, they plan to install doors and windows in 10 classrooms, enough space to start classes by the end of the year, he says.

“None of us want to lose any more time,” said Ahmed Jassim, a 20-year-old who had to delay his senior year of high school during the Islamic State’s occupation. “Our city has major problems that are too huge for us to solve. But this part, we can manage.”

Nytimes

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Iraq

Philippines Arrests Explosives Expert Tied to Mideast Militants

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Director General Ronald dela Rosa of the Philippine National Police. He said Monday that an Iraqi chemist had been arrested after being seen acting “suspiciously” in the northern city of Angeles. Credit Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MANILA — Philippine intelligence operatives have arrested an Iraqi explosives expert who has eluded the local authorities since last year and were checking whether he had been in contact with Filipino militant groups, the police said Monday.

The man, Taha Mohamed al-Jabouri, 64, arrived in the Philippines in August as the country was getting ready to host a gathering of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in preparation for a November summit meeting that included President Trump.

Mr. Jabouri was a “chemist with knowledge of explosives” and is known to have ties to militant extremist movements in the Middle East, said Ronald dela Rosa, director general of the Philippine National Police, citing Iraqi intelligence information.

“The Iraqi Embassy in Manila alerted the Philippine intelligence community of his presence,” he said.

Mr. Jabouri was arrested Saturday after the authorities in the northern city of Angeles advised the police that he was there, the director general said, adding that Mr. Jabouri had been observed acting “suspiciously.”

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Police intelligence operatives were then dispatched to Angeles and found Mr. Jabouri, who gave up peacefully. He was carrying luggage that contained personal items and different denominations of foreign currency, the police said.

Mr. Jabouri admitted while being interrogated that he had served as a consultant for Hamas in Syria before moving to Turkey in 2012.

“He also said that he traveled to Manila to meet a Chinese business group that hired him as a consultant,” Director General dela Rosa said, without identifying the group.

A police intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said investigators were also checking whether Mr. Jabouri had made any connections to local militant groups, noting that his visit came as the country was fighting Islamic State-linked Filipino militants, backed by foreign fighters, who had taken over the southern city of Marawi.

The fighting, which left at least 1,200 people dead — most of them militants — was declared over in October, although security forces have said nearly 200 Filipino militants who took part in the siege escaped and remained at large.

The arrest came after a year in which the Philippines has grappled with deadly bombings.

In May 2017, the police in Manila placed the crowded Quiapo district under lockdown after two bombs exploded within hours of each other near a Muslim center. Two people were killed, and six others, including two police officers investigating the first blast, were hurt.

A month before those blasts, a pipe bomb also exploded in Quiapo, injuring a dozen people.

The Philippine police had sought to play down the attacks, saying they did not appear to be connected.

But six months earlier, in November 2016, the authorities prevented a bombing when they recovered a powerful explosive device near the American Embassy in Manila. Director General dela Rosa tied that bombing to a Muslim militant faction that would later help lead the Marawi insurgency.

Continue reading the main story

MANILA — Philippine intelligence operatives have arrested an Iraqi explosives expert who has eluded the local authorities since last year and were checking whether he had been in contact with Filipino militant groups, the police said Monday.

The man, Taha Mohamed al-Jabouri, 64, arrived in the Philippines in August as the country was getting ready to host a gathering of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in preparation for a November summit meeting that included President Trump.

Mr. Jabouri was a “chemist with knowledge of explosives” and is known to have ties to militant extremist movements in the Middle East, said Ronald dela Rosa, director general of the Philippine National Police, citing Iraqi intelligence information.

“The Iraqi Embassy in Manila alerted the Philippine intelligence community of his presence,” he said.

Mr. Jabouri was arrested Saturday after the authorities in the northern city of Angeles advised the police that he was there, the director general said, adding that Mr. Jabouri had been observed acting “suspiciously.”

Police intelligence operatives were then dispatched to Angeles and found Mr. Jabouri, who gave up peacefully. He was carrying luggage that contained personal items and different denominations of foreign currency, the police said.

Mr. Jabouri admitted while being interrogated that he had served as a consultant for Hamas in Syria before moving to Turkey in 2012.

“He also said that he traveled to Manila to meet a Chinese business group that hired him as a consultant,” Director General dela Rosa said, without identifying the group.

A police intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said investigators were also checking whether Mr. Jabouri had made any connections to local militant groups, noting that his visit came as the country was fighting Islamic State-linked Filipino militants, backed by foreign fighters, who had taken over the southern city of Marawi.

The fighting, which left at least 1,200 people dead — most of them militants — was declared over in October, although security forces have said nearly 200 Filipino militants who took part in the siege escaped and remained at large.

The arrest came after a year in which the Philippines has grappled with deadly bombings.

In May 2017, the police in Manila placed the crowded Quiapo district under lockdown after two bombs exploded within hours of each other near a Muslim center. Two people were killed, and six others, including two police officers investigating the first blast, were hurt.

A month before those blasts, a pipe bomb also exploded in Quiapo, injuring a dozen people.

The Philippine police had sought to play down the attacks, saying they did not appear to be connected.

But six months earlier, in November 2016, the authorities prevented a bombing when they recovered a powerful explosive device near the American Embassy in Manila. Director General dela Rosa tied that bombing to a Muslim militant faction that would later help lead the Marawi insurgency.

Nytimes

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Iraq

Military Shifts Focus to Threats by Russia and China, Not Terrorism

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke Friday at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. Credit Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The United States is switching its priority to countering Chinese and Russian military might after almost two decades of focusing on the fight against terrorism, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday, unveiling a national defense strategy that Pentagon officials say will provide a blueprint for years to come.

The new strategy echoes — on paper, if not in tone — a national security blueprint offered last month in which President Trump described rising threats to the United States from an emboldened Russia and China, as well as from what was described as rogue governments like North Korea and Iran.

But where Mr. Trump struck a campaign tone during the unveiling of his national security strategy, with references to building a wall along the southern border with Mexico, Mr. Mattis took a more sober route by sticking to the more traditional intellectual framework that has accompanied foreign policy doctrines of past administrations.

Drawing inspiration from Winston Churchill, who once said that the only thing harder than fighting with allies is fighting without them, Mr. Mattis said that the United States must strengthen its alliances with other powers.

“History proves that nations with allies thrive,” Mr. Mattis said in remarks at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “Working by, with and through allies who carry their equitable share allows us to amass the greatest possible strength.” (One of those allies, Britain’s defense secretary, quickly released a statement welcoming Mr. Mattis’s words.)

Continue reading the main story

Unlike Mr. Trump, who said Russia and China “seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth” without mentioning Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Mattis appeared to take direct aim at Russia. “To those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day,” he said.

In seeking to shift the military emphasis to Russia and China after years fighting terrorism, the Trump administration is echoing many of the same pronouncements made by the Obama administration, which famously sought to pivot to Asia after years of fighting in Iraq. But the rise of the Islamic State, which declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, put a stop to the Asia pivot talk in Mr. Obama’s final years in office.

Now a new administration is again seeking to leave the terrorism fight behind. Mr. Mattis described increased “global volatility and uncertainty, with great power competition between nations a reality once again.” He declared the defeat of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Mr. Mattis said.

But the United States is still at war in Afghanistan, where Mr. Trump has promised to set no artificial deadlines for withdrawing troops against a resilient Taliban. And American pilots and Special Operations forces continue to go after militants fighting with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Shabab from Syria to Yemen to Somalia.

But as tensions in the Korean Peninsula have continued to rise over the past year, American military commanders and senior defense officials have fretted over whether 16 years of counterinsurgency fighting has left the military unprepared for a great powers land war.

Pentagon officials say that the need to do both — fight insurgents and prepare for a potential war among great powers — is pushing a military that is already stretched. Added to that is the uncertainty that has plagued the Pentagon’s budget since 2011, when mandatory spending caps were put in place.

Congress has been unable to pass a spending bill, and on Friday the federal government was, once again, teetering on the edge of a shutdown. Mr. Mattis, during his speech on Friday, took aim at the budget shenanigans.

“As hard as the last 16 years of war have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the budget control act’s defense spending caps, and nine of the last 10 years operating under continuing resolutions, wasting copious amounts of precious taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — The United States is switching its priority to countering Chinese and Russian military might after almost two decades of focusing on the fight against terrorism, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday, unveiling a national defense strategy that Pentagon officials say will provide a blueprint for years to come.

The new strategy echoes — on paper, if not in tone — a national security blueprint offered last month in which President Trump described rising threats to the United States from an emboldened Russia and China, as well as from what was described as rogue governments like North Korea and Iran.

But where Mr. Trump struck a campaign tone during the unveiling of his national security strategy, with references to building a wall along the southern border with Mexico, Mr. Mattis took a more sober route by sticking to the more traditional intellectual framework that has accompanied foreign policy doctrines of past administrations.

Drawing inspiration from Winston Churchill, who once said that the only thing harder than fighting with allies is fighting without them, Mr. Mattis said that the United States must strengthen its alliances with other powers.

“History proves that nations with allies thrive,” Mr. Mattis said in remarks at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “Working by, with and through allies who carry their equitable share allows us to amass the greatest possible strength.” (One of those allies, Britain’s defense secretary, quickly released a statement welcoming Mr. Mattis’s words.)

Unlike Mr. Trump, who said Russia and China “seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth” without mentioning Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Mattis appeared to take direct aim at Russia. “To those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day,” he said.

In seeking to shift the military emphasis to Russia and China after years fighting terrorism, the Trump administration is echoing many of the same pronouncements made by the Obama administration, which famously sought to pivot to Asia after years of fighting in Iraq. But the rise of the Islamic State, which declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, put a stop to the Asia pivot talk in Mr. Obama’s final years in office.

Now a new administration is again seeking to leave the terrorism fight behind. Mr. Mattis described increased “global volatility and uncertainty, with great power competition between nations a reality once again.” He declared the defeat of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“We will continue to prosecute the campaign against terrorists, but great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security,” Mr. Mattis said.

But the United States is still at war in Afghanistan, where Mr. Trump has promised to set no artificial deadlines for withdrawing troops against a resilient Taliban. And American pilots and Special Operations forces continue to go after militants fighting with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Shabab from Syria to Yemen to Somalia.

But as tensions in the Korean Peninsula have continued to rise over the past year, American military commanders and senior defense officials have fretted over whether 16 years of counterinsurgency fighting has left the military unprepared for a great powers land war.

Pentagon officials say that the need to do both — fight insurgents and prepare for a potential war among great powers — is pushing a military that is already stretched. Added to that is the uncertainty that has plagued the Pentagon’s budget since 2011, when mandatory spending caps were put in place.

Congress has been unable to pass a spending bill, and on Friday the federal government was, once again, teetering on the edge of a shutdown. Mr. Mattis, during his speech on Friday, took aim at the budget shenanigans.

“As hard as the last 16 years of war have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the budget control act’s defense spending caps, and nine of the last 10 years operating under continuing resolutions, wasting copious amounts of precious taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Nytimes

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Iraq

Suicide Bombs in Baghdad Kill Dozens, Puncturing Newfound Sense of Hope

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The site of a bomb blast in Baghdad on Monday. The attackers struck during rush hour in the city’s Tayran Square, which is usually crowded with laborers seeking work. Credit Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters

BAGHDAD — Two suicide bombers killed more than two dozen people in Baghdad on Monday, mostly street vendors and day laborers gathered at dawn in hopes of finding work at an open-air market, in the first major attack in the Iraqi capital since the government declared victory over the Islamic State.

The carnage in Tayaran Square punctured a growing sense of hope and pride that had permeated Baghdad after Iraq’s security forces, bolstered by large numbers of volunteers and fresh recruits, successfully fought grueling battles against the insurgent group that had held one-third of Iraqi territory and terrorized millions of citizens.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, but officials in charge of security in the capital immediately cast suspicion on Islamic State sleeper cells, the target of Iraq’s intelligence and counterterrorism forces since major military operations ended in the fall.

Even as battles against Islamic State militants raged in northern Iraq and in its second-largest city, Mosul, Baghdad had largely been free of violence. The suicide bombings Monday morning caught many residents of the capital off guard, as they had become used to living relatively free of fear, taking their families to parks and shopping malls.

The attacks came a day after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other politicians announced competing coalitions ahead of national elections scheduled for May. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, campaign seasons in Iraq have been scarred by terrorist attacks and other violence.

Continue reading the main story

It is still unclear how the two assailants wearing suicide vests had entered Baghdad or why they had chosen to attack a market popular for cheap electronics and secondhand clothes.

The first assailant detonated his explosives around 6 a.m., as the sun was rising and as day laborers, shopkeepers and street vendors started gathering for work, according to Maj. Muhammad Mudhir, a traffic police officer who witnessed the attack. Minutes later, as people rushed to help the wounded, the second assailant detonated his explosives, said Kadhim Ali, a construction worker who was at the square.

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Dr. Abdul Ghani, the director of Al Rusafa hospital in Baghdad, said at least 27 people had been killed, and 60 others wounded, many of whom were in a serious condition.

Since counterterrorism operations were ramped up in 2015, Iraqi security forces have established a tight security cordon around Baghdad in an attempt to keep insurgents and violence from infiltrating the city.

The belt of suburbs and farms to the west of the capital have long been home to bomb factories for Al Qaeda offshoots that have plagued Iraq since the mid-2000s.

Muhammad al-Jiwebrawi, the head of the Baghdad Province’s security committee, said those areas around the capital remained insecure. He urged the government to increase intelligence operations around the city to flush out insurgents.

“Islamic State terrorists are still present,” Mr. Jiwebrawi said. “There are reasons for what they are doing.”

Although the areas around the capital have been relatively safe compared with previous years, violence has not disappeared.

On Jan. 13, an insurgent detonated an explosive vest near a convoy carrying the head of Baghdad’s provincial government, wounding four Iraqi security forces.

A suicide bombing on a checkpoint in the north of the city on Saturday killed at least five people, according to the Iraqi police.

Continue reading the main story

BAGHDAD — Two suicide bombers killed more than two dozen people in Baghdad on Monday, mostly street vendors and day laborers gathered at dawn in hopes of finding work at an open-air market, in the first major attack in the Iraqi capital since the government declared victory over the Islamic State.

The carnage in Tayaran Square punctured a growing sense of hope and pride that had permeated Baghdad after Iraq’s security forces, bolstered by large numbers of volunteers and fresh recruits, successfully fought grueling battles against the insurgent group that had held one-third of Iraqi territory and terrorized millions of citizens.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, but officials in charge of security in the capital immediately cast suspicion on Islamic State sleeper cells, the target of Iraq’s intelligence and counterterrorism forces since major military operations ended in the fall.

Even as battles against Islamic State militants raged in northern Iraq and in its second-largest city, Mosul, Baghdad had largely been free of violence. The suicide bombings Monday morning caught many residents of the capital off guard, as they had become used to living relatively free of fear, taking their families to parks and shopping malls.

The attacks came a day after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other politicians announced competing coalitions ahead of national elections scheduled for May. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, campaign seasons in Iraq have been scarred by terrorist attacks and other violence.

It is still unclear how the two assailants wearing suicide vests had entered Baghdad or why they had chosen to attack a market popular for cheap electronics and secondhand clothes.

The first assailant detonated his explosives around 6 a.m., as the sun was rising and as day laborers, shopkeepers and street vendors started gathering for work, according to Maj. Muhammad Mudhir, a traffic police officer who witnessed the attack. Minutes later, as people rushed to help the wounded, the second assailant detonated his explosives, said Kadhim Ali, a construction worker who was at the square.

Dr. Abdul Ghani, the director of Al Rusafa hospital in Baghdad, said at least 27 people had been killed, and 60 others wounded, many of whom were in a serious condition.

Since counterterrorism operations were ramped up in 2015, Iraqi security forces have established a tight security cordon around Baghdad in an attempt to keep insurgents and violence from infiltrating the city.

The belt of suburbs and farms to the west of the capital have long been home to bomb factories for Al Qaeda offshoots that have plagued Iraq since the mid-2000s.

Muhammad al-Jiwebrawi, the head of the Baghdad Province’s security committee, said those areas around the capital remained insecure. He urged the government to increase intelligence operations around the city to flush out insurgents.

“Islamic State terrorists are still present,” Mr. Jiwebrawi said. “There are reasons for what they are doing.”

Although the areas around the capital have been relatively safe compared with previous years, violence has not disappeared.

On Jan. 13, an insurgent detonated an explosive vest near a convoy carrying the head of Baghdad’s provincial government, wounding four Iraqi security forces.

A suicide bombing on a checkpoint in the north of the city on Saturday killed at least five people, according to the Iraqi police.

Nytimes

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Turkish shelling of Kurdish-controlled Afrin in Syria continues

Turkey Turkish shelling of Kurdish-controlled Afrin in Syria continues Intense fighting has resumed on third day of operation to create...

- Iraqiparliament3434 400x240 - Iraqi Parliament approves election date, confirms May 12 announcement - Iraqiparliament3434 80x80 - Iraqi Parliament approves election date, confirms May 12 announcement
kurdistan3 hours ago

Iraqi Parliament approves election date, confirms May 12 announcement

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Parliament on Monday approved the previously announced date for the upcoming parliamentary...

- fe4ba64188da17f85ca8ab9234d7a199 L 400x240 - Christians Urge International to Help Afrin - fe4ba64188da17f85ca8ab9234d7a199 L 80x80 - Christians Urge International to Help Afrin
kurdistan3 hours ago

Christians Urge International to Help Afrin

The Christian residents of Afrin, the Kurdish city in Syria released an official statement concerning the Turksih bombarmnets on the...

- 20180122 s36fd89 image 400x240 - Clash between Turkish army and YPG in Serêkaniyê  - 20180122 s36fd89 image 80x80 - Clash between Turkish army and YPG in Serêkaniyê 
Rojava3 hours ago

Clash between Turkish army and YPG in Serêkaniyê 

The Turkish army has expanded its attacks on Afrin to Derik and Serêkaniyê. Clashes are taking place between Turkish soldiers...

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