At least 45 people have been killed in a devastating car bomb blast in southern Baghdad. The so-called "Islamic State" jihadi group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A car bomb ripped through Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood on Thursday, killing at least 45 people and wounding more than 60.
An Iraqi official said the bomb targeted a car dealership in the namely Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad.
The attack is the deadliest to hit the Iraqi capital this year. The death toll is expected to climb further as many of the wounded are in critical condition.
The so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadi group claimed responsibility for the attack through the Amaq propaganda agency, which is affiliated with IS. The Amaq report described the attack as targeting "a gathering of Shiites."
Security officials inspected the area before sundown on Thursday, while some distressed civilians desperately searched for missing relatives and others took photos of the large crater created by the blast.
Thursday's bombing was the second attack in a week targeting car markets in the area, suggesting that militants have found it easier to leave vehicles laden with explosives near areas where hundreds of other cars are parked. An explosion in the same neighborhood killed at least four people on Tuesday.
Another 11 people were killed on Wednesday in a car blast claimed by IS in the northern neighborhood of Sadr City, a part of the capital that has been repeatedly targeted by militants.
IS steps up insurgent strikes in bid to keep Mosul stronghold
Baghdad has been rocked by a series of suicide bombings since the beginning of the year, the majority of which struck in the first days of 2017. More than 30 people were killed when a suicide car bomb hit a busy square in Sadr City on January 2.
Thursday's blast, however, was the deadliest to hit Baghdad since last July, when an enormous truck bomb blast claimed by IS set two shopping centers ablaze in the Karrada district, killing more than 320 people.
With IS on the defensive and ceding territory Iraq, particularly in the eastern Mosul region, the hardline group appears to have stepped up insurgent strikes in a bid to stretch security forces and capture headlines.
Last month, US-backed Iraqi forces dislodged the jihadi group from eastern Mosul and are now preparing an offensive on the IS-controlled western side of the city. Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, had been under IS control since mid-2014.
dm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)