40 dead in ISIS attack on Iraqi Shiite shrine, officials say

Posted at 2:22 PM, Jul 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 14:22:49-04

BALAD, Iraq — At least 40 people were killed and 74 others wounded in an ISIS attack on a Shiite mausoleum in Balad, Iraq, Ministry of Health spokesman Ahmed al-Rideini said Friday.

The Thursday night attack follows the truck bombing of a shopping district in the capital, Baghdad, on Sunday, in which at least 292 people died. The area was crowded with Muslims shopping to celebrate the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in the worst attack the capital has seen in years.

In Thursday’s attack, ISIS initially launched several mortar rounds landing in the area near the mausoleum in the town of Balad, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Baghdad, an Iraqi Joint Operations Command statement said. Video footage showed large explosions at the site.

Three men wearing suicide vests then tried to storm the shrine, before security forces opened fire. Two of them blew themselves up at a shopping area near the shrine and the third was killed by security personnel.

The Iraqi military is conducting a search at the site from which the mortars were fired and the town is in lockdown as police search for other potential attackers, the statement said.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on its affiliate news agency Amaq, saying the death toll was more than 100 people.

Ramadan attacks

ISIS had called on its supporters to carry out more attacks during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which ended this week. It is intensifying attacks as it loses territory in the country to Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes. The government had assured people that driving ISIS from Falluja — about 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad — and the rest of Anbar province would bring greater security to the capital, but that hasn’t been the case, according to retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst.

Sunday’s devastating bombing was carried out in the largely Shiite district of Karrada. ISIS is a Sunni Muslim extremist group.

The fallout from that attack has included the resignation of Iraq’s interior minister, Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, who stepped aside Tuesday citing a lack of “coordination among security systems” as the reason for his departure.

CNN’s Kareem Khadder contributed to this report