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Conflicting reports surround explosion at a Shi’a Hussainiat in southwest Baghdad

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At around 20:00 on 15 July, an explosion was reported at Hussainiat Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas, located in Turath neighborhood of Rashid Sub-District, southwest Baghdad. Key components of this incident pertaining to the type of explosives and casualties were subject to highly conflicting reporting. A lack of reporting from official ISF outlets, and the resulting reliance on reports from largely unnamed security and media sources, compounded these challenges.

The version of events generating the most attention asserted that two insurgents armed with explosive vests conducted a suicide attack against the facility. An alteration cited the employment of one IED and one suicide vest bomber. Associated reporting claimed 3-5 civilians were killed and at least 14 others were wounded. Fueling this version, IS issued a statement claiming two of its militants armed with explosive vests and light weapons attacked the mosque, killing or wounding 70 individuals in a significant exaggeration. IS released an image said to depict the two insurgents. The statement added that the mosque was previously a Sunni place of worship but was “seized” two years ago.

Another version of events claimed this incident involved the detonation of an IED emplaced inside a bin at the courtyard of this Shi’a place of worship. Some sources asserted that no casualties were inflicted. However, some casualties were likely in this instance, with a video on social media depicting a number of wounded individuals being evacuated by first responders. An IS-authored attack was similarly assessed, and this version of events is initially assessed to be the most likely.

The targeting of a religious site and initial casualty reporting likely contributed to several reports citing a more significant terrorist attack. Similar conditions were associated with an attack on 21 June, when an IED detonated near a Shi’a Hussainiyat in east Baghdad, wounding between 3-7 individuals. To recall, this attack was initially associated with viral reporting from typically reliable media outlets citing a highly lethal suicide bombing, which was later officially recanted as erroneous reporting. IS also issued what was assessed to be a false claim of responsibility during that incident. The more detailed IS claim issued for the 15 July attack was noteworthy, but the lack of images depicting the corpses of suicide bombers is also important to consider.

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