BAGHDAD : A wave of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group targeted commercial areas in and around Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 24 people in attacks that came as Iraqi troops poised to recapture Fallujah, a city held by the extremists group west of Iraq’s capital.
The bombings by IS, which has been behind several recent deadly attacks in Baghdad and beyond, are seen as an attempt by the militants to distract the security forces’ attention away from the front lines.
The Iraqi military, backed by paramilitary troops and aerial support from the U.S.-led coalition, launched the operation to dislodge the militants from Fallujah about a week ago but have still to start the final push into the city center.
The deadliest of Monday’s attacks took place in the northern, Shiite-dominated Shaab neighborhood of Baghdad where a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a checkpoint next to a commercial area, killing eight civilians and three soldiers.
The explosion also wounded up to 14 people, a police officer said.
A suicide car bomber struck an outdoor market in the town of Tarmiyah, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Baghdad, killing seven civilians and three policemen, another police officer said, adding that 24 people were wounded in that bombing.
And in Baghdad’s eastern Shiite Sadr City district, a bomb motorcycle went off at a market, killing three and wounding 10, police said. Medical officials confirmed casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
In an online statement, IS claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they targeted members of the Shiite militias and a government office. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statement but it was posted on a militant website commonly used by extremists.
Fallujah is one of the last major IS strongholds in western Iraq. The extremist group still controls territory in the country’s north and west, as well as Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
On Sunday, Iraqi Maj. Dhia Thamir said troops have recaptured 80 percent of the territory around Fallujah since the operation began and are currently battling IS to the northeast as they seek to tighten the siege ahead of a planned final push into the city center.
In a televised speech Sunday to parliament, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Fallujah residents to either leave the city or stay indoors. Government officials and aid groups estimate that more than 50,000 people remain inside the center of the Sunni majority city.