By SINAN SALAHEDDIN
The death toll from the truck bombing at a bustling Baghdad commercial street rose to 157 on Monday, Iraqi authorities said, as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered new security measures in the capital.
The attack early Sunday, claimed by the Islamic State group, was one of the worst single bombings in Iraq over more than a decade of war and insurgency. It underscored the IS group’s ability to strike the Iraqi capital despite a string of battlefield losses elsewhere in the country and fueled public anger toward the government.
The suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden vehicle in Baghdad’s mostly Shiite Karada district, a favorite destination for shoppers — especially during the holy month of Ramadan. The streets and sidewalks were filled with young people and families after they had broken their daylight fast.
Police and health officials said Monday the toll reached 157 but that it was likely to increase even further as rescuers are still looking for missing people. Officials said at least twelve people are confirmed missing. At least 190 people were wounded, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
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A string of smaller bombings elsewhere in Baghdad on Monday killed 10 people and wounded 31, the officials said.
In a statement issued Sunday evening, al-Abadi ordered security forces to stop using a repeatedly-discredited hand-held bomb detection device. He also ordered the reopening of an investigation on the procurement of the British-made electronic wands, called ADE 651s.
In 2010, British authorities arrested the director of the British company ATSC Ltd. on fraud charges, prompting Iraqis to open their own investigation into alleged corruption. Iraqi authorities made some arrests, but the investigation went nowhere and the device remained in use.
On Monday evening, Associated Press reporters saw a number of the devices still being used at checkpoints around the capital.
Al-Abadi also ordered that X-ray systems be installed at the entrances of provinces. He demanded the upgrade of the capital’s security belt, increased aerial scanning and stepped-up intelligence efforts.
Iraqi and foreign officials have linked the recent increase in IS attacks —especially large-scale suicide bombings — with the string of battlefield losses the extremist group has faced over the past year.
Iraqi security forces, supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, have retaken the cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah.
At the height of the extremist group’s power in 2014, IS had deprived the government of control of nearly one third of Iraqi territory. Now the militants are estimated to control only 14 percent, according to the prime minister’s office. IS still controls Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj contributed to this report.
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