-- ISIS has claimed responsibility for three separate bomb explosions that rocked Baghdad today, killing at least 93 people and injuring at least 165, making it the deadliest day of violence in the Iraqi capital this year, according to The Associated Press.
The largest of the car bombings killed 63 people at an outdoor market in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City. The bomb was in a pickup truck loaded with fruits and vegetables.
Later in the day, two separate car bombs in northern Baghdad killed at least 30 and injured 80 others. The first bomb exploded at a police station in the northwestern Kadhimiyah neighborhood, while another struck in the northern neighborhood of Jamiya.
Major General Gary Volesky, the head of U.S ground forces in Iraq, described today’s deadly bombings as “desperate acts” by ISIS, which keeps losing territory it once controlled in Iraq.
In a video briefing from Baghdad, Volesky told Pentagon reporters, “As we've seen, as the enemy loses more and more terrain, they resort to some of these desperate acts. The security forces in Baghdad have the situation under control, but our condolences go out to those families.”
The Pentagon has said that 40 percent of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria has been retaken with recent battlefield victories in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in Iraq, and Al Shaddadi in eastern Syria. U.S. military advisers and trainers have been working with the Iraqi military to prepare it for a long-expected offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, that fell under ISIS control in mid-2014.
Volesky said the U.S. military in Baghdad has not changed its security posture in Baghdad as a result of the bombings. "Force protection is our first priority, and so we are fine here,” he said. Nor are there any indications from the Iraqis that they intend to reposition forces currently fighting ISIS back to Baghdad. "Our assessment is they are able to handle the issue as they see it," Volesky said.
Sunni-dominated ISIS often targets Shiite Muslims to incite further sectarian violence in Iraq that it feels will draw more supporters to its side.
The embattled government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has been stymied in undertaking reforms designed to replace ministers affiliated with the Shiite parties that dominate Iraq's political system with technocrats. Two weeks ago, supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr stormed into the secure Green Zone and rushed into the Iraqi parliament to protest the planned moves.
Al Sadr is a powerful Shiite cleric whose power base is Sadr City, the large Shiite Muslim neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. The controversial anti-American cleric continues to dominate the Iraqi political scene as his party controls a large number of seats in the Iraqi Parliament, militias affiliated with his movement were also involved in early efforts to fight ISIS.
According to United Nations statistics, in the month of April a total of 741 Iraqis were killed and another 1,374 were injured in acts of terrorism, violence and combat with ISIS. 410 of those killed were civilians and 973 civilians were injured. The majority of the casualties occurred in the Baghdad area.
“It pains us to see the continuing bloodletting and loss of life, particularly among civilians who are paying a high price as a result of bombings and the armed clashes”, Jan Kubiš, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, said in a press release announcing the latest statistics. “Terrorists have used suicide attacks to target cafes, places of worship, pilgrims and markets in a wicked, unrelenting campaign to cause maximum casualties and inflict untold suffering on the population."
ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent and "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" anchor Martha Raddatz will report from Baghdad all this week.