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World

ISIS Claims Responsibility For Baghdad Market Bombing

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Iraq, a huge bomb exploded this morning in a market in Baghdad. The Interior Ministry says at least 36 people were killed. The attack was claimed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS. NPR's Alice Fordham reports regularly from Baghdad and joins us now from Beirut, where she's monitoring this story. Hello.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Alice, you know, sadly, we've heard for years about bombings in Baghdad with high death tolls. What is unusual about this one?

FORDHAM: Yeah, exactly. As you say, this fits in with a pattern that's become, you know, only too familiar. Sunni Muslim extremists pile up a vehicle with explosives. They drive through the security forces checkpoints, which are still pretty inefficient despite years of attempted reforms. And they go to a Shiite area, perhaps, you know, a cafe or a park or, in this case, a market where moms were buying the meat and vegetables to make family lunches at the weekend. And they detonate the bomb, and we have these huge civilian death tolls. But you're right that this is an unusually large attack. And it's also true that we have seen fewer of attacks of this magnitude, at least in the capital, in the last year or so.

MONTAGNE: And why fewer attacks in this last year?

FORDHAM: Well, the thinking is that ISIS has gone from being largely an insurgent group to one that holds territory these days. As you know, it controls large parts of Iraq, the Sunni areas. And it's directed its energies in those areas to holding turf and keeping order and even a measure of governance and tax collection. So it has other things to do with its resources, other ways to direct its energies than construct and detonate these huge car bombs. But they do still happen. We've seen coordinated strikes in the capital. Earlier this month, there was a huge attack in Diyala province, which killed dozens of people. So it may even be that now we're watching to see if they're on the rise again.

MONTAGNE: But if they are doing these - more bombings now, does that suggest ISIS is losing territory?

FORDHAM: Well, they have lost some territory in Iraq over the last year or so. That province of Diyala that I just mentioned, they were largely driven out of there. But in other places, it's - you know, it's really not moving fast. Earlier in the summer, they actually captured the capital of Anbar province. Despite, you know, a concerted effort by the Iraqi military and by their, you know, paramilitary allies and airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition to take back Anbar province, it's moving very slowly. We hear reports of little bits of territory here and there being wrested back, but it's not moving fast. And some people think the United States should be doing more. Yesterday, General Ray Odierno, the outgoing Army chief of staff, said the U.S. should consider embedding some soldiers in Iraq if things don't improve soon.

MONTAGNE: Alice, thanks very much.

FORDHAM: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Alice Fordham, speaking to us from Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.