Islamic State militants are again using bombs to attack Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.
A number of bombings struck markets across the Iraqi capital on Tuesday. At least 68 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded.
The deadliest attack happened in the al-Shaab area in northern Baghdad. Officials say a suicide attacker set off explosives in a busy market. At least 34 people were killed. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Also on Tuesday, a car bomb exploded in the Rashid neighborhood south of Baghdad.
In the past, Islamic State militants have mainly used suicide vests when setting off explosions. But since April, the militants have produced larger explosions with vehicle-born improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs.
Some Middle East watchers see the shift from vests to car bombs as a sign that the Iraqi security forces are failing to protect Iraqi citizens. In addition to fighting the Islamic State, the security forces have to deal with political protests against the Iraqi government.
Patrick Martin is with the Institute for the Study of War, a group based in Washington, D.C. Martin said he believes the car bombings are aimed at harming an increasingly weak government.
He said the attacks could hurt already tense relations between the government and protesters, especially if the government cannot guarantee security in Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he believes the militant group is seeking to use his country’s political crisis to support its push for an Islamic caliphate.
U.S. and Iraqi officials said they believe the latest attacks show that Islamic State is weak and desperate. They said the group is fighting back with bigger bombings after recent losses on the battlefield.
Iraqi officials said the latest car bombings have been directed at civilian targets, like shopping centers and other business areas.
The group also used car bombs to attack a natural gas plant in northern Baghdad on Sunday. The attack forced two power stations to stop producing electricity.
Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition have pushed back Islamic State militants in recent months. On Monday, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman spoke to reporters about the fight against the group. He said IS has now lost 45 percent of territory it once controlled in Iraq, and between 16 and 20 percent in Syria.
Brett McGurk is U.S. President Barack Obama’s special representative to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State. In Jordan on Sunday, McGurk said the militant group is now retreating.
“And now the caliphate, as they call it, this perverse caliphate, is shrinking. So they are very much on the defensive.”
McGurk said after losing the territory, Islamic State is reacting like it has in the past, by increasing its bombing campaign.
“So their territory is shrinking, and they are now doing these suicide attacks against civilian populations. It’s not going to work, but that’s what they are trying to do.”
McGurk said the coalition will not let up its pressure on IS in Iraq and Syria. He said progress is being made to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul and Raqqa in Syria from Islamic State.
But some observers are downplaying the territory recently won by the U.S.-led coalition.
Terrorism expert Greg Barton of Australia’s Deakin University told VOA that much of the land IS has given up is not very important.
“The big question now is, how do you take cities like Mosul and Raqqa back, without horrible things happening to the people who are effectively hostages held against their own will?”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Jamie Dettmer and Victor Beattie reported on this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted their reports for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
vest – n. a garment worn on the upper part of the body
shift – n. a change in position or direction
desperate – adj. extremely bad, serious or dangerous
retreat – v. to move back or withdrawal
caliphate – n. the area ruled by a caliph
perverse – adj. contrary to accepted or expected standard of practice
downplay – v. to make something appear less important than it really is