Iraq 'neutralises' suicide bombers in Karbala

Second suspect being pursued by security forces

A policeman stands guard as Shiite pilgrims march from Baghdad to Karbala before Arbaeen in September. AFP
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Iraq has said it has killed two would-be suicide bombers in the southern city of Karbala.

Security forces “neutralised” a person wearing an explosive belt, said army spokesman Yehia Rasool. A second suspect fled the scene and was later killed by security forces.

Karbala, south-west of Baghdad, is home to the shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas.

Millions of Shiite pilgrims visit the city each year, with at least five million visiting the shrines during the Arbaeen commemoration each September.

After years of violence, bombings are relatively rare in Iraq, but Karbala was once the site of frequent attacks, with a series of Al Qaeda-linked bombings killing over 100 people there in March 2004.

More than 30 people were killed in a rare bombing at a Baghdad market in July last year, months after twin blasts killed dozens in the capital.

ISIS, which succeeded Al Qaeda in Iraq, mainly operates in remote areas and has focused attacks on both Iraqi security forces and Kurdish troops in the north.

According to Joel Wing, an analyst who has tracked violence in Iraq since 2008 and compiled a database of militant violence, ISIS in Iraq is losing "relevance" to the country's security situation.

"The insurgency in Iraq has been in a tailspin downwards for the last several years. At its current state it is having little to no impact upon Iraq overall because the militants are isolated in rural areas where there are few people and little government presence. It can continue in this environment for decades but it is now irrelevant," he said in recent analysis on the group.

The current state of the militant group is a far cry from their predeccessors, founded by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, sometimes thought of as the founder of the organisation. At their peak, his supporters conducted over 100 car bombings across Iraq per month. Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike in 2006.

The group regenerated after being almost defeated by US and Iraqi forces in 2011, becomming globally known as ISIS in 2014 and launching as many as 1,000 car bombings, before being defeated in Mosul in 2017.

Updated: December 06, 2022, 4:17 PM