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Car bomb blast leaves two dead, many wounded in Iraqi border town of al-Qaim

Smoke rises after a car bomb exploded in Iraqi border town of al-Qaim, Iraq January 11, 2019. REUTERS

BAGHDAD

A car bomb blast killed at least two people and injured more than a dozen in the Iraqi town of Al-Qaim on the Syrian border on Friday, a statement from Iraq’s military said.

According to an Iraq’s Health Ministry statement, 25 others were wounded in a city to which displaced families are being encouraged to return. It did not give further details.

Al-Qaim, a city along the border with Syria in Iraq’s western Anbar province, was one of the last cities recaptured from Islamic State militants in 2017. It was the group’s last bastion in Iraq to fall last year.

The Iraqi army is closing camps for people displaced by war in Anbar and pressuring families to return to their communities before basic services have been restored, according to a recent Associated Press report.

Nearly 40,000 Iraqis have returned to their communities in Al-Qaim and the surrounding district, according to data from the UN.

A local senior police source put the number killed at three, with 23 injured. The military and the police said four members of the security forces were among those injured.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in Al-Qaim, which went off in the middle of a busy market on Friday morning. It was described by the military in its statement as a terrorist attack.

-Terrorist attack-

Earlier this week, a car bomb blast killed two people and injured six in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, 150 km northwest of Baghdad.

The Tuesday blast, described by the military as a “terrorist attack,” occurred at a checkpoint at the northern entrance to Tikrit.

The two dead were police officers, according to a local police source and a hospital source. In its statement, the military referred to the two dead only as civilians.

The wounded included two soldiers, a police officer and three civilians, according to the police source.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in Tikrit too, the hometown of late dictator Saddam Hussein, which was controlled by IS militants in 2014-15.

Iraq declared victory over IS militants in December 2017 after two years of fighting. However, Islamic State militants have continued to carry out insurgent-style attacks on security forces across the country.

A recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which is a think tank based in Washington, found that while the total number of Islamic State attacks in Iraq had dropped in 2018, those against government targets had increased compared to 2017.

Observers are also worried that the bitter squabbles among Iraqi’s political forces could turn violent.

(AFP)

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