At least 64 people were killed and 360 others were wounded in a number of terrorist attacks that targeted markets and stores in Baghdad on Tuesday (November 2nd).
The attacks, which were co-ordinated and took place just 15 minutes apart, were concentrated in popular areas, markets, coffee shops, a funeral service, and a billiards hall. In addition, some of the bombings targeted Iraqi security forces.
The attacks came two days after gunmen killed over 50 hostages at Our Lady of Salvation church for Syriac Catholics church in Baghdad.
Attacks target markets and coffee shops
Spokesperson for the anti-terrorism forces in Baghdad Col. Ali Ghalib said the terrorists used 11 car bombs on Tuesday, three improvised explosive devices, and four sticky bombs in the attacks.
Iraqi security forces managed to thwart three other car bomb attacks in different areas of Baghdad.
Ghalib noted that the first car bomb targeted a coffee shop in the area of Abu Dasheer. It was followed by a second car bomb blast that targeted a billiards hall packed with young people in al-Sadr City. Another car bomb exploded near Sabah al-Khayat Square in Ur neighbourhood, northeast of Baghdad.
The fourth car bomb exploded among a number of citizens who were shopping at 20th Street in al-Baya area. A few minutes later, the fifth car bomb exploded near an Iraqi police station in al-Jihad neighborhood. The sixth car bomb exploded near a movie theatre in the New Baghdad area.
The seventh car bomb attack targeted a shopping mall in al-Yarmuk area of central Baghdad.
The eighth car bomb targeted a funeral service in al-Shuala area and was followed by an IED explosion.
Another car bomb exploded near a market in al-Khadumiya, and was followed by another car bomb explosion targeting Iraqi police vehicles.
The final car bomb targeted a market in al-Ghazaliya area.
"All the car bombs were parked along the sides of roads, and quantities of explosives and remotely-controlled IEDs were placed inside them," Ghalib said.
A number of IEDs and sticky bombs targeting civilians' cars also exploded in al-Kamaliya, Abu Ghraib, al-Kurayaat, al-Ghazaliyah, and Sidiyah.
"Sixty-four citizens were killed in these attacks, while 360 others were wounded," Ghalib said. "However, the death toll is not final, given the seriousness of some of the wounds, as the blasts caused different and serious wounds for 78 people."
Ghalib said Iraqi security forces discovered three other car bombs all targeting markets frequented by citizens in the evening in al-Amirya, al-Shuala, and al-Benouk. "They were dismantled by the first engineering taskforce in Baghdad Military Operations Command."
"The Christians are our brothers"
Meanwhile in Baghdad, signs of anger mixed with grief were on the faces of thousands who participated in the funeral services for 19 victims of the terrorist attack Sunday which struck Our Lady of Salvation for Syriac Catholics church in Baghdad.
The service was accompanied by the sounds of church bells, and calls of Takbir from the minarets of nearby mosques.
Iraqi officials, political leaders, and a large number of Iraqi and international civil society organisations participated in the service.
Mourners carried signs supporting the Church and denouncing the terrorists.
One banner read, "Shame to those whose principles allow them to attack churches.''
"You cowards, you shall go away, and we stay as we are stronger," read another.
"The attack targeted all Iraqis, not just the Christians,'' said Hussam Issa, a Baghdad resident.
Issa, 33, was among the participants in the demonstrations staged Tuesday in Baghdad and Ninewa to condemn the acts of violence and the terrorists.
"The Christians are our brothers,'' he said.
At 6:00 PM on Sunday (October 31st), 14 gunmen, nine wearing explosives belts, tried to storm the Iraqi Stock market building in the Karrada district. When Iraqi security forces confronted them, they escaped and barricaded themselves inside Our Lady of Salvation church, close to the stock market building, taking 147 civilians hostage.
When Iraqi security forces stormed the building to free the hostages, a suicide attacker blew himself up, killing 51 persons, including two priests, in addition to women and children and 11 members of Iraqi security forces. Another 66 persons, including 32 members of the security forces, were wounded.
Iraqi forces killed eight terrorists and detained five others.
At the church of Mar Yussuf (Saint Joseph), near Our Lady of Salvation church, Christians, Muslims, Sabaeans, and Shabaks gathered to recite prayers for victims of the attack.
"What happened during the funeral service showed that we are one united people, and terrorism is a transient state whose fate is oblivion,'' Father Sabah Butrus said.
"The tears and cries of Iraqis of all colours mixed today in grief over the victims. This we were sure of, the unity of Iraqis, because terrorism did not target only Christians in Iraq, but Muslims and all other faiths and sects as well.''
Jumana Mansour, 42, one of the participants in the funeral, said, "we pray from our hearts to remind the people and the world of peace; it is everyone's right to live in peace in their country, away from the vultures of darkness.''
Esraa Hassan, co-ordinator of the civil society organisations network, formed a group called the ''initiators'' which worked to gather the largest number of civil society organisations to participate in the mass service held at St. Joseph church.
''The participation of Iraqis in the funeral service, and the mass, is a clear, strong-worded message to all the extremists wherever they may be, that Muslims and Christians, and indeed all the spectrum of Iraqi people, are brothers in faith and humanity, and are partners in this homeland. No extremist or terrorist can tear up or divide the ranks of Iraqis,'' she said.
Attack on church has nothing to do with Islam
Sheikh Muhanad Al Ani, Imam and preacher at Abrar Mosque in Baghdad, also participated in the funeral.
"By attending the service, we want to say to our Christian brothers that you are not alone. We, the Muslims, are with you, sharing in your joys and grief," he said.
Sheikh Mohammad Salih, member of the Group of Scholars and the Educated of Iraq, said, "What happened at the Lady of Salvation church is a large sin which has nothing to do with Islamic teachings whatsoever.''
"What those thugs did is considered a violation of the faith. We condemn this crooked logic which justifies killing under various pretexts,'' he said.
At the town of Hamdaniya, in Ninewa province, thousands of town residents mourned seven of the church attack victims.
Father Louis al-Kassab, from the Church of the Sacred, said, "This is a battle for existence. Christians are not strangers in Iraq; rather they are the people of this land. The Christians are not carriers of weapons, but promoters of peace.''
Iraqi officials vow swift justice
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement issued Tuesday that the terrorist attacks "are targeting the unity, sovereignty, and independence of Iraq".
He called on the Iraqi political forces, parties, clerics, tribes, and civil society organisations to "unify ranks and to confront this suspicious conspiracy".
Al-Maliki said he issued strict orders to Iraqi security forces to chase the planners and executors of the attacks and to bring them to justice.
Spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Defence Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari accused al-Qaeda of responsibility for the attacks, adding that the terrorist organisation seeks attention and to "sow sectarian fitna in Iraq."
"Army and police forces mobilised their capabilities, and the situation in Baghdad is under control," al-Askari said. "Iraqi security forces have real information on the individuals who are behind these terrorist attacks. Their immediate arrest is inevitable, and there is no doubt about it."
In the wake of the attacks, a number of social organizations and local governments in a number of Iraqi provinces launched campaigns to donate blood to help the wounded in Baghdad hospitals.
Saadoun al-Shaalan, vice chairman of Anbar Provincial Council, said the council was collecting the bags of blood donated by citizens and sending them to the capital's hospitals.
"Terrorism will be defeated only through our unity," al-Shaalan sid. "Our disunity has become out of the question. It is unity that we are depending on to defeat the terrorists."
"We will not be deceived"
Erfan Saadi, 61, a resident of al-Amiriya neighbourhood in Baghdad, said the attacks in Iraq over the past few days would make Iraqis stronger in their resolve against terrorism.
"Those terrorist, takfirist criminals are committing a crime everyday -- one day they kill Christians, and on another, they kill Shias, and on yet another day, they kill Sunnis and Kurds. Their goal is to sow fitna among us," he said.
"However, we are stronger than that, and we are too intelligent to be deceived by their dirty tricks," Saadi added. "A day will come soon when we will punish those terrorists, as we did with the other ones in the past."