Death toll in Baghdad attack tops 200

Mohammed al Bayd, Vice Chair of Baghdad Community Security. (Photo credit: CCTV screenshot)

The number of people killed in a massive explosion and fire in Baghdad continues to climb almost two days after a suicide bomb attack in a crowded shopping area.  Amnesty International is calling for restraint after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi pledged to speed up executions of convicted terrorists already on death row in the country.

Monday,  rescue workers remain at the scene, families begin to bury their dead, and the nation is observing three-days of mourning. FSRN’s Nell Abram has more.

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Iraqi Christians joined Muslim mourners praying for the victims of the blast as the death toll rose above 200 Monday; many children are reportedly among the dead and hundreds of people were injured. Rescue workers were still finding bodies in the charred remains of the Kerrada shopping district after the massive weekend explosion in the predominantly Shia Muslim area of Baghdad. With dozens of bodies burnt beyond recognition, many families are left desperately hoping yet deeply afraid.

The attack came on the eve of Eid-al-Fitr, and the Kerrada District was packed with people celebrating Ramadan and preparing for the festival that brings the Muslim holy month to a close. The self-proclaimed Islamic State has claimed responsibility for blast.

The explosion was triggered by a refrigerated truck packed with explosives, which sparked an enormous fire in the area filled with well-stocked shops selling goods for the upcoming holiday.

Mohammed al Bayd is Vice Chair of Baghdad Community Security. Distraught, he spoke to CCTV in the aftermath of the blast.

“Most of the people in the building were in their 20s, now hundreds of people have been hurt here,” al Bayd said. “The government sits in a chair doing nothing when it comes to security.”

Security services in Baghdad are fractured into small agencies, and many say they are ineffective. The attack comes just more than a week after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured the city of Falluja from the self-styled Islamic State.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi visited the scene of the attack Sunday, but was met by hostile crowds who hurled rocks and bottles as he walked through the fire-ravaged area, angry at an ineffective government they say has failed to protect them.

The Kerrada blast wasn’t the only attack for which ISIS has claimed credit in recent days. In Bangladesh, seven attackers launched a siege late Friday night at an upscale, international restaurant in the capital Dhaka. The perpetrators targeted foreigners, butchering 20 people with machetes before police stormed the building. Sunday, officials identified the attackers; all were well educated members of the Bangladesh elite.

Police killed all but one at the end of the siege; one attacker is in custody.

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