Iraq sacks officials after IS atrocity in Diyala

Iraq sacks officials after IS atrocity in Diyala
Officials say Diyala's police will be restructured after IS claimed truck bombing on Friday that killed over 100 people, including women and children as they celebrated Eid.
3 min read
19 July, 2015
Pro government fighters had declared Diyala liberated but extremist pockets remain. [Getty]

Officials in Iraq's eastern Diyala province say authorities are restructuring a town's police department after Friday's attack that killed scores of people.

The officials say the police chief in Khan Beni Saad and three officers have been fired in the wake of the attack on a crowded market in the town to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  

They say two other officers are being investigated. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to talk to journalists.

At least 115 people, including women and children, were killed in Friday night's attack in the mostly Shia town and more than 170 were wounded. It was one of the deadliest attacks to strike Iraq since 2011. 

The blast brought down several buildings in the town, about 30 km (20 miles) northeast of Baghdad, crushing to death people who were celebrating the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, police and medics said. 

Islamic State, which controls large parts of northern and western Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack in the mixed eastern province of Diyala where Khan Bani Saad is located and said the target was "rejectionists", as the group refers to Shia Muslims.  

Angry crowds went on the rampage after the explosion, smashing the windows of cars parked in the street in grief and anger. Body parts were flung onto the roofs of nearby buildings by the force of the blast, police said. 

"Some people were using vegetable boxes to collect children's body parts," said police major Ahmed al-Tamimi from the site of the explosion, describing the damage to the market as "devastating".

The Diyala provincial government declared three days' mourning and ordered all parks and entertainment places to close for the rest of the Eid al-Fitr holiday to pre-empt any further attacks.

Islamic State said in a statement issued on Twitter that the attack was to 'avenge' the killing of Sunni Muslims in the northern Iraqi town of Hawija, and that the suicide car bomber was carrying around three tonnes of explosives. 

Iraqi officials declared victory over Islamic State in Diyala earlier this year after security forces and Shia paramilitaries drove them out of towns and villages there, but the extremists remain active in the province.  

Security forces and militia groups are currently focused on the western province of Anbar, where they have been gearing up for an offensive to retake the mainly Sunni governorate - Iraq's largest. 

The United Nations said earlier this week that nearly 15,000 people had been killed in the 16-month period up to April 30.

The White House on Saturday condemned the  attack, calling it "yet another painful examples of the atrocities" committed by the group.

"The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to work with Prime Minister (Haider) al-Abadi and our partners in Iraq and the international community to bring an end to ISIL's depravity," said White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price, in a statement.