The White House has condemned a devastating July 17 car bombing in the busy market of an Iraqi town that has killed at least 120 people, one of the deadliest attacks carried out by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.
In a July 18 statement, White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price called the attack in Iraq’s eastern Diyala Province “abhorrent” and denounced the IS group, also known as ISIL, for “purposefully and viciously targeted Iraqi civilians.”
“This latest attack is yet another painful example of the atrocities that the terrorist group ISIL continues to perpetrate against the people of Iraq,” Price said.
The death toll has risen to 120, according to the Diyala province’s governor, Muthana al-Tamimi, and could rise further given that some 130 others were wounded in the blast.
The bombing brought down several buildings in Khan Bani Saad, about 30 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, as the mostly-Shi’ite victims were gathered on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the end of Ramadan.
“On behalf of the brave people of Diyala Province and all those Iraqis persecuted by ISIL, the United States will continue to support the government of Iraq and its security forces to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist organization,” Price said.
He added that Washington “remains steadfast in its commitment” to work with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi “and our partners in Iraq and the international community to bring an end to ISIL’s depravity.”
IS militants claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the car was driven by a suicide bomber and loaded with three tons of explosives.
Angry crowds went on the rampage after the explosion, smashing the windows of cars parked in the street in grief and anger.
In the wake of the attack, reports said security forces were out in full force across Diyala Province, while local authorities cancelled the Eid celebrations and declared three days of mourning for the victims.
"The terrorist gangs will have no place in our country," Al-Abadi said. "They will not escape punishment. Their crimes increase our determination to hunt them."
Footage broadcast by local television showed corpses lying amid the rubble of destroyed buildings and burning vehicles.
A provincial council official, Mohammed al-Hamadani, said that at least 50 stores and 75 cars were destroyed in the blast.
"What happened in the Bani Saad market is a massacre against innocent people," al-Hamadani said.
Meanwhile, IS militants claimed responsibility for a July 18 attack on military checkpoints in Egypt that killed five members of the country’s security forces.
The extremist group's affiliate in Iraq said in a statement on a social media that it had carried out the attack in North Sinai, Reuters reported.
Egyptian security sources told Reuters earlier in the day that the five deaths occurred after two checkpoints were struck by several mortar rounds.
The Egyptian state news agency MENA said rockets and shooting were involved in the assault, and that clashes continued.
With reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters, and CNN