Seventeen people died during the evening rush on Monday in eastern Baghdad when Islamic State militants attacked a shopping mall. The group has returned to guerrilla warfare in an effort to reassert its dominance after losing control of the capital to Iraqi forces, reports The New York Times.
During a raging two-hour gun battle, Iraqi security officials told The Times that five members of the security forces and nearly 40 people were wounded.
The insurgence comes after Iraqi forces, with assistance from the U.S. military, recently forced ISIS fighters out of Ramadi, “the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province in the west,” writes The Times. The capital was the largest conquest the militants have lost thus far.
The attack in Baghdad on Monday, in the Shiite-majority neighborhood of Baghdad Jadida, or New Baghdad, indicated the group’s continued ability to carry out guerrilla attacks and disrupt life even in the heavily secured capital.
For Baghdad residents, the attack was a fearsome reminder of the days their city faced near-daily mass casualty attacks from car bombs and suicide attackers. But lately, as the Islamic State, whose predecessor was Al Qaeda in Iraq, has focused on holding the territory it controls, Baghdad has been relatively safer.
The attack also underscored what many fear will happen as the Islamic State loses territory in places like Ramadi: that the group will return to its days as a guerrilla force trying to instill terror by carrying out attacks en masse.
While the mall attack was one of “the most brazen,” writes The Times, it was not the deadliest.
We continue to hope for peace in the Iraq and the Middle East.