Bombing that killed more than 200 deadliest attack in Baghdad in years

Updated 5:20 PM EDT, Mon July 4, 2016
An Iraqi man mourns in the holy Iraqi city of Najaf during the funeral procession for the victims of a suicide bombing.
HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images
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Story highlights

NEW: The strike follows a spate of attacks believed to be conducted by ISIS

More than 80 bodies are so charred they will require DNA testing to identify

(CNN) —  

More than a day after a suicide truck bomb ripped through Baghdad, families are still hoping that rescuers searching through the rubble can locate the bodies of their loved ones.

The bombing early Sunday in a busy shopping district was the deadliest single attack in Iraq’s war-weary capital in years, killing at least 215 people, Mohamed al-Rubaye‎, deputy head of the security committee of the Baghdad Provincial Council, said Monday on Afaq TV.

Crews remain at the scene in the Karrada neighborhood where the blast occurred, trying to pull bodies from the devastation. Around 175 people were wounded, Rubaye said.

And 81 of the bodies are so charred, DNA testing will need to be conducted to identify them, he said.

One couple at the scene were searching for their teenage son who had gone to a cafe with his friends to celebrate his birthday.

Another man was looking for five relatives, including children, who were buying new clothes for Eid-al-Fitr – the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan on Tuesday.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a string of assaults during the holy month for Muslims, a period of fasting and prayer, and also a time when jihadists launch operations against those they regard as their enemies.

Spate of terror attack as Ramadan draws to a close

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. It was the latest in a string of assaults during Ramadan, a period of fasting and prayer for Muslims and also a time when jihadists launch operations against those they regard as their enemies.

Both Baghdad strikes are a sign of the Sunni-Shiite tension in the Muslim world. Sunni-dominated ISIS claimed it was targeting Shiite neighborhoods. Karrada and Shaab are predominately Shiite neighborhoods.

Attacks worldwide

ISIS promised an uptick in terror attacks during Ramadan. The Baghdad assault came just days after massacres at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and security targets in Yemen. There have also been recent suicide attacks in Jordan at a border crossing near Syria, and suicide attacks in a Christian area of northern Lebanon.

Last month, a gunman shot up a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people before he was killed, and an attacker killed a police commander and his partner in France.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Bangladesh and Yemen and there are news reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for the Jordanian attack. Experts believe the group might have conducted the attacks in Turkey and Lebanon.

A recent wave of suicide bombings also struck three Saudi Arabian cities over a 24-hour period ending Monday. The attacks occurred near the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, near a Shiite mosque in Qatif, and in Medina, the holy city, where four people were killed. Analysts suspect ISIS could be behind the strikes.

Witness: ‘I lost several friends’

In Karrada, college student Sadeq al Zawini, 25, was watching as rescue workers pulled bodies from the rubble.

“We’ve had it with the Iraqi government and politicians. They can’t continue blaming Daesh and other terrorist groups. We need a solution,” he said, using another name for ISIS.

“I lost several friends myself, some are still missing,” he said, sobbing.

The anger of residents manifested itself when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other officials attempted to survey the bomb damage.

Amateur videos posted on social media showed residents throwing objects at a convoy carrying al-Abadi in Karrada. The videos showed protesters yelling “thief!” and “get out!”

Abadi called the Karrada strike “dastardly” and “cowardly” and said the country will hold a three-day mourning period.

In a statement, al-Abadi said he understands the reaction in “that moment of grief” by the residents who threw objects at his convoy.

He said he came to Karrada to console families and “share their sorrow in this painful tragedy that happened.” He said ISIS tried to hijack the joy that Iraqis felt over recent victories against ISIS in Falluja.

He said ISIS tried to hijack the joy that Iraqis felt over recent victories against ISIS in Falluja.

Bombing comes after Iraqi gains against ISIS

This flurry of ISIS strikes during Ramadan comes as the United States says the group is losing ground in the warfare across Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi forces announced last week they have seized the city of Falluja, 40 miles west of Baghdad, from ISIS. At the time, authorities assured Baghdad residents that the bombings would stop.

The long, sad history of Falluja

Many of the car bombers and suicide bombers who have plagued the capital for years are from Falluja, about an hour away.

But Cedric Leighton, a CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, said he thinks the attacks will worsen, adding that ISIS’ game plan is to generate instability.

“They are trying to create enough chaos in Iraq itself so that the Iraqi forces will find it very difficult to actually take advantage of the forward momentum they have achieved because of their victory in Falluja and that is a very serious issue that the al-Abadi administration is going to have to address.”

Attacks such as the one in Baghdad will drive a wedge between the government and the people, in particular Shiites.

“The wedge was already there, and it’s fairly easy for them to exploit this,” Leighton said.

Opinion: ISIS is losing the war

CNN’s Susanna Capelouto, Steve Visser and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.