IS bomb kills 90 in Iraq

  • 19/07/2015
Residents look at the site of Friday's suicide car attack at a market in Khan Bani Saad, northeast of Baghdad. (Reuters)
Residents look at the site of Friday's suicide car attack at a market in Khan Bani Saad, northeast of Baghdad. (Reuters)

Iraq is mourning at least 90 dead after one of the deadliest car bombs in its bloody history ripped through a busy market north of Baghdad.

The suicide attack by the Islamic State jihadist group came as the country marked Eid al-Fitr, the feast that ends the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Residents recounted scenes of horror in the aftermath of Friday's attack, in which officials said at least 15 children were among the dead.

Muthanna Saadoun, a municipal employee who drives a street sweeper, used his truck to help put out the fires that the blast caused in the market area.

"People were burning in their cars because no ambulances or fire engines were able to reach them," the 25-year-old said.

IS said the suicide attacker had three tonnes of explosives in his vehicle.

The blast left a huge crater in the main street of Khan Bani Saad, only 20 kilometres from Baghdad's northern outskirts, in Diyala province.

Cuts of charred meat were still hanging from the hooks of one butcher's stall that was ravaged by flames. Several collapsed buildings were still smouldering 12 hours after the attack.

A child's toy elephant lay in the middle of the street as a defence ministry bulldozer shovelled the debris and cleaners swept blood-stained water.

"What we witnessed yesterday cannot be described. Fire, bodies, wounded, women and children screaming... Khan is now a disaster zone," said Salem Abu Moqtada, 34, who sells vegetables in the market.

"The toll so far is 90 martyrs and 120 wounded, and we have between 17 and 20 missing," Abbas Hadi Saleh, the top official in Khan Bani Saad, which is predominantly Shi'ite but has a Sunni minority, told AFP.

Officials warned the definitive death toll could climb even higher after a day that saw bodies being retrieved from collapsed buildings while others were being buried.

Sunni Muslims began marking Eid al-Fitr on Friday but Iraq's majority Shi'ite community started celebrations on Saturday.

Markets are usually packed in the days before the holiday as people preparing for large family gatherings shop for food and clothes.

Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important dates in the Islamic calendar and traditionally sees families gather to celebrate the end of a month during which many fast from dawn to dusk.

IS said the attack targeted Shi'ite militias, a claim it often makes even when most of the victims are civilians.

According to witnesses and officials, the bomb went off at a checkpoint guarding an entrance to the market.