Anti-government anger rises in Baghdad after massive bombing

The World
A woman reacts at the site of Sunday’s suicide bomb attack in Baghdad. Residents are angry with the government’s failure to deliver promised security.

A woman reacts at the site of Sunday’s suicide bomb attack in Baghdad. Residents are angry with the government’s failure to deliver promised security.

Ahmed Saad/Reuters

Baghdad is no stranger to violence, but a bombing on Sunday stunned the Iraqi capital.

“They’re still digging out the bodies,” says reporter Jane Arraf. “They don’t know exactly who died or how many died.”

The death toll is officially at least 150, but many people are still unaccounted for. Most are women and children.

“This was different,” says Arraf, “because of the scale; because of the fact that they struck during the holy month of Ramadan, and because of the victims. The victims included entire families.”

The suicide bomber drove a vehicle — variously reported as a truck or a van — to a crowded market in the predominantly Shiite Karrada district of Baghdad, where people were celebrating the end of their daily Ramadan fast.

ISIS has claimed responsibility.

Baghdad’s citizens are mad at their government, according to Arraf. She says the Iraqi people have shown unbelievable patience in the face of massive violence since the US-led invasion in 2003. But they may now have reached a breaking point.

“This was a government,” says Arraf, "that promised it would improve security, that it would keep them safe, and they’ve seen absolutely none of that and they’re sick of it.”

“It’s not just the bombing,” she adds. “It’s the corruption that led to the bombing.”

Many of the explosive detectors at checkpoints across the city simply do not work. They were purchased from a British manufacturer almost a decade ago, in a massive, expensive contract. The defects have been apparent for at least seven years — a British executive was jailed in 2010 for selling the shoddy goods. But investigations into the contract on the Iraqi side have been stymied, leaving people suspicious of corruption in high places, according to Arraf.

As for the motive behind Sunday's attack, Arraf says ISIS is trying to send several messages.

“It’s a message to the Iraqi government that they can strike. It’s a message to the Iraqi people that they shouldn’t rely on the government to keep them safe. And a message in general that even though they’ve been driven out of Fallujah and other places, they’re still capable of launching these devastating attacks.”