.. As 8 children are feared dead after Russia strike hits Syria school: monitor
An attack by the Islamic State group involving a car bomb, a gunfight and a hostage-taking left at least 12 people dead in Baghdad Monday, security and medical sources said.
The exact sequence of the attack in the Baghdad al-Jadida area of the Iraqi capital was not immediately clear but security officials and an AFP reporter described scenes of chaos.
The attack, which IS claimed in a statement posted online, was a departure from the jihadist organisation’s usual modus operandi of suicide car bombings.
According to an official from the interior ministry, gunmen blew up at least one car bomb before spraying gunfire in the street and storming a mall called Zahrat Baghdad.
“At least one of the attackers had a suicide vest and blew himself up inside the mall,” the official said.
Several people were held hostage inside the mall and three of them were killed as security forces attempted to neutralize the attackers, a police colonel said.
“When the security forces got too close, they killed three hostages,” he said.
“The attackers at one stage released at least nine hostages, women and children,” he also said.
The police officer said at least two members of the security forces were killed during the attack and nine wounded, including three officers.
A hospital official confirmed the death toll and said at least three attackers either killed themselves or were killed by the security forces.
Security forces at one stage in the attack reported that gunmen had full control of the mall and it was not clear how the standoff ended.
The area around the mall, located in a busy commercial area of Baghdad al-Jadida, a populous Shiite-majority area on the eastern edge of the Iraqi capital, suffered extensive damage.
Police said a counter-terrorism force from the intelligence services was deployed to the scene of the attack.
“The security forces are now fully in control, the gunmen have been killed and the hostages have been freed,” the police officer said.
Helicopters flew overhead as security forces searched the scene and the roads gradually reopened.
The IS statement said the attack was carried out by “four soldiers of the caliphate” and targeted Shiites.
It said one of the IS members blew himself up in an explosives-laden vehicle when “the apostates sent reinforcements”.
IS claimed that a total of 90 people were killed or wounded but the group has exaggerated the number of casualties caused by its attacks in previous such statements.
IS has suffered a number of military setbacks across Iraq in the past year. Security officials say fierce battles and relentless air strikes have depleted its manpower.
Meanwhile, at least eight children were killed along with their teacher in a Russian air strike that hit a school in Syria’s Aleppo province on Monday, a monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike in the town of Anjara also injured at least 20 people, all of them children and teachers.
The group said there had been heavy air strikes and clashes between government and rebel forces since Sunday in the northern province, which is controlled by a mixture of moderate and Islamist rebels.
The Britain-based monitor also reported that three children were killed by rebel rocket fire on a government-held district in Aleppo city.
Control of the city has been divided between government forces in the west and rebel fighters in the east since shortly after fighting began there in mid-2012.
Government forces regularly carry out air raids on the east, while rebels fire rockets into the west.
The situation is largely reversed in the countryside surrounding the city, with rebels controlling much of the area west of Aleppo, and the government present to the east.
Russia, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, began air strikes in support of the central government in late September.
It says it is targeting the Islamic State group and other “terrorists,” but a third of those killed in its strikes have been civilians, according to the Observatory.
The monitor said in late December that Russian air strikes had killed more than 2,300 people since they began on September 30, among them 792 civilians.
Moscow has slammed as “absurd” allegations that its strikes have killed civilians.
More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.