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      15 Killed In Baghdad Hotel Bombings

      15 Killed In Baghdad Hotel Bombings 15 Killed In Baghdad Hotel Bombings 15 Killed In Baghdad Hotel Bombings
      Photo by Hadi Mizban/AP

      Middle East

      15 Killed In Baghdad Hotel Bombings

      By John Beck

      Car bomb attacks on two upmarket Baghdad hotels killed 15 and wounded 42 on Thursday night, Iraqi authorities said.

      Vehicles packed with explosives detonated in the parking lots of the central Cristal Grand Ishtar and Babylon hotels just before midnight local time, in separate, but apparently coordinated attacks. 

      No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts but the Islamic State (IS) militant group, which overran a significant portion of the country last year, has been carrying out regular bombings in the capital and elsewhere.

      The two hotels were recently refurbished and are frequented by NGO workers and journalists. Cristal Grand Ishtar, which has a ground floor cafe and is a popular spot for wedding parties, is located in a compound that also contains the Palestine Hotel and is typically crowded on Thursday nights, the start of the Iraqi weekend. Babylon Hotel, meanwhile, is regularly used by government officials for press conferences and meetings.

      In January 2010 Suicide bombers from IS predecessor organization Al-Qaeda in Iraq struck both hotels, along with the Hamra, killing at least 36.

      Both now have a significant security presence and vehicles are searched at entrance checkpoints, so questions will likely be raised over how the assailants were able to penetrate the compounds with large explosive devices. 

      Iraq lifted its years-old nightly curfew in February, ending a policy of restricting movement after dark that had been in place in various forms since 2003's American-led invasion. In February, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he wished to ease restrictions on daily life for Iraqis, although the decision came after gains against IS. Nevertheless, security forces continue to battle the group less than 20 miles from the capital. 

      Michael Knights, Lafer fellow with The Washington Institute, told VICE News that the attacks could herald the start of further IS strikes on other such high profile targets. 

      "The problem here is that [IS] has made a decision, unseen since early 2010, to hit Baghdad hotels. What does this signify? Just a stunt to signal potency in Baghdad and to rattle the city, or the first of many such attacks," he said.

      Knights adds that there is likely to be an increase in IS-orchestrated bombings in both Baghdad and the Shia majority city of Karbala, which the group has said will be its next targets. 

      "ISIL [IS] has a pattern of uncorking attacks before the big symbolic dates," he said. 

      The Associated Press contributed to this report.

      Topics: middle east, iraq, baghdad, carbomb, isis, is, islamic state

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