Promising respite from a blazing Iraqi summer heat, a suicide bomber with an ice truck attracted over 100 people to their deaths on Friday. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the bombing in Khan Bani Saad, a crowded marketplace in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province, making it one of the single deadliest acts of terror in the country in the past decade. Khan Bani Saad is a predominantly Shia town located about 35 km north of the Iraqi capital, underlining an “ugly sectarian chord” in the volatile province, where a number of towns were captured by the IS last year. Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have since wrested those turfs, but fighting between the militants and security forces still rage.
In August last year, at least 64 people were killed in a brazen onslaught on a Sunni mosque in Diyala, in what locals believed was a retaliatory strike against Diyala tribes who refused to announce loyalty to the terror outfit. The Sunni militant group that currently controls about a third of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared caliphate has been behind many similar massive attacks on civilians and military checkpoints as it seeks to expand its empire. The fact that the duplicitous plot was carried out on the eve of Eid al-Fitr — one of the most joyous Muslim holidays marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan — shows that the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group is not guided by any ideology or a desire to undo perceived injustice to the Muslims themselves. The carnage of innocent fellow Muslims exposes the barbaric face of Islamic terrorism and the need for a holistic approach to the threat to world peace it poses.
As the US and Iraqi leaders rushed to condemn the bombing, which the White House said “purposefully and viciously targeted Iraqi civilians” celebrating a religious holiday, the incident has also brought to the fore the inner contradictions within the US-led coalition that is trying to challenge the IS in Iraq and Syria. The US-backed offensive against the IS is wavering as hundred militants holed up in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, have withstood sever air strikes and held off a larger force of Iraqi troops on the ground. The contradictions revolve around a 1,400-year-old enmity between Shias and Sunnis. The divisions of its many enemies have been one of IS’s great advantages. The US must realise that the anti-IS forces have no option but to unite if they are to win the war on terror.