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IRAQ WARS
Iraqis mark first anniversary of devastating Baghdad blast
By Ali Choukeir
Baghdad (AFP) July 2, 2017


Suicide bomber kills 14 at camp for Iraq displaced
Baghdad (AFP) July 2, 2017 - A suicide bomber attacked a camp for displaced Iraqis in Anbar province on Sunday, killing 14 people, a police major and a doctor said.

The blast at the 60 Kilo camp west of Anbar capital Ramadi also wounded 13 people.

The doctor and the major both said that most of the victims were women and children, but the officer also told AFP that two security personnel including a captain were among the dead.

Adnan Fayhan, the head of the local council in the Al-Wafaa area, where the camp is located, said that the camp would be closed following the attack.

"All the displaced people in the camp will be brought to the 18 Kilo camp west of Ramadi," as it is "safer and receives more aid," Fayhan said.

"The 60 Kilo camp will be closed after all the displaced people have been brought to the 18 Kilo camp," he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State jihadist group frequently carries out suicide bombings targeting civilians in Iraq.

Iraqi forces retook the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah from IS, but the jihadists still hold areas in western Anbar, and the province still faces major security challenges.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other support have since regained much of the territory they lost.

Iraqi forces are now in the final stages of the battle to retake Mosul from IS, but will have more fighting to do in Anbar and elsewhere after recapturing the country's second city.

Security in some parts of Iraq will likely worsen as IS loses more ground and increasingly returns to insurgent-style bombings and hit-and-run attacks.

Iraqis still reeling from a devastating suicide bombing that killed over 320 people in central Baghdad gathered Sunday at the site of the attack to mark its first anniversary.

The bombing -- the deadliest single such attack to hit the country since 2003 -- sparked raging fires in a shopping area early on July 3, 2016 as it teemed with people ahead of the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Much of the damage has been repaired, but a massive banner bearing images of the victims still hangs at the site, and the psychological wounds inflicted by the fear and loss are far from healed.

"I still feel as though the bombing happened yesterday. I was very close when the explosion occurred. We were not able to do anything because of the shock," said Laith Fadhel al-Hussein.

"When I come here, I feel a severe (pain) in my heart," said Hussein, a 42-year-old who lost four cousins and a nephew in the attack.

Food was prepared by relatives of some of the victims and distributed to the dozens of people gathered at the site of the bombing.

Sadiq Issa, 43, who was filling styrofoam boxes with rice, lost nine relatives in the attack.

"After hearing the news, my father had a stroke," while his mother lost all movement in her arms and legs, said Issa.

Even now, "we are not sleeping," he said, holding back tears.

"I am a survivor. I saw my nephews slaughtered" in the attack.

- Broken promises -

"This place means everything to me -- here, I lost my families and friends and neighbours and all my loved ones," he said.

While surrounding areas have been repaired, the "Laith Complex" building is still empty, with the banner with pictures of the victims hanging down the front.

Residents of the area said the building is in danger of collapsing and is not safe for restoration, so it may be demolished and rebuilt.

But the process of restoration and paying compensation to the victims and their families is questioned by some.

Firas, a 36-year-old who lost his brother in the attack, said the government has not followed through on its pledges to the victims.

"They took advantage of the feelings of the people and broke all their promises," he said.

Hisham Sabah, 33, also criticised the government's response.

"Imagine, God forbid, if this happened in another country -- the state would help the families of the martyrs," he said.

"This is the worst massacre since the fall of (Saddam Hussein's) regime," but authorities put those seeking compensation through "impossible procedures that make you hate the country."

IRAQ WARS
Iraq battles last few hundred jihadists in Old Mosul
Mosul, Iraq (AFP) July 2, 2017
Iraqi forces were battling the last few hundred jihadists in Mosul's historic centre Sunday as they pressed the final stages of an assault to drive the Islamic State group from the city. More than eight months since the country's forces launched a gruelling operation to retake Mosul, IS has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a few neighbourhoods on its western side. "The num ... read more

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