I t was a bloody turn of the year for Iraqis. A wave of attacks by Islamic State (IS) militants hit cities in various parts of the country, killing dozens of people within days.
The group struck Baghdad several times, including a bomb blast in the predominantly Shia Sadr City district of the capital. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters that the attacker pretended to pick up day labourers in his explosives-laden truck. Another car bomb exploded in the car park of a nearby hospital. In total, five car bombs hit the city on Monday alone.
Speaking to The World Weekly from Baghdad, Iraqi journalist Mustafa Habib, who writes for the news website Niqash, said the situation had become “scary” but that Iraqis were now used to bombings. Nonetheless, a local media outlet reported dismay on social media that the New Year’s Day shooting in Istanbul attracted sympathy around the world, whereas the “daily pain” suffered by Iraqi civilians was ignored.
The blasts came as further progress was made against IS in Mosul, its main urban stronghold, where grueling battles continue and more than 2,000 people flee the violence each day. "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," Mr. al-Abadi told reporters.
Many observers agree that the violence is a prelude of what is to come as IS loses ground. “The organisation is likely to continue its shift to asymmetrical guerilla-style military tactics that target civilian populations in various cities - a far cry from its 2014 attempt to act as a state army that conquers territories,” Renad Mansour, an academy fellow at Chatham House, told TWW.
Mr. Habib said sleeper cells, whom he blamed for the latest bombings, will increase their activity in the future, “taking advantage of political conflicts and... corruption among the security forces inside Baghdad and other cities”.
Yet amid the prevailing gloom there was some good news emerging from Iraq this week, as a local female journalist who had been abducted by armed men in December was freed unharmed.