Explosions in Iraq’s capital on Sunday killed at least 17 people and was possibly one of many retaliatory efforts to come in the country’s attempt to reclaim the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, according to news reports.
The blasts mainly targeted neighborhoods in Baghdad that are predominately Shiite, which make up Iraq’s majority. The latest was a car bomb that was parked in the northwestern neighborhood of Hurriyah at a popular food and vegetable market, according to the Associated Press.
While there were no immediate claims for responsibility, the Islamic State has stepped up attacks after Iraq put into action about two weeks ago its long-anticipated plan to take back Mosul, its second largest city with about 1.5 million residents left. Mosul is the Islamic State’s last major stronghold in the country.
The explosions also came a day after thousands of Shiite militia joined Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi troops in the effort, according to Reuters.
Their aim is to take over the town of Tal Afar, about 35 miles west of Mosul, to cut off the Islamic State from using it as a place to retreat or get reinforcement from Syria.
But the attempt to reclaim Mosul could be one of the toughest battles since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, which brought the Shiites to power, according to Reuters.
“The battle of Mosul will not be a picnic. It needs time, it needs precision, it needs a deep breath,” said Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organisation, the most powerful political group within the organized effort. “We are prepared for the battle of Mosul even if it lasts for months.”
The Iraqi military told the AP that there are over 40,000 army units, militarized police, and special forces trying to fight the Islamic State.
And the U.S. military, which in recent months deployed more than 1,100 troops to help with logistics on top of the 4,000 that were already in Iraq, estimates that there are up to 5,000 Islamic State fighters inside Mosul and as many as 2,500 around it.