Middle East

Mosul battle: Triple car bomb attack kills 23 at market

A man from Mosul mourns the death of his relative outside a hospital in Irbil (22 December 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Human rights groups have accused IS militants of deliberately targeting civilians in Mosul

At least 23 people have been killed in a triple car bomb attack by Islamic State militants in an eastern area of Mosul retaken by Iraqi forces.

Fifteen civilians were among those killed by the blasts at a market in Kukjali, according to Iraq's military.

Iraqi warplanes bombed jihadist positions in the city in retaliation.

Earlier, the UN said mortar fire had killed four Iraqi aid workers and seven civilians, as the government's offensive entered its third month.

Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, did not assign blame for the two incidents on Tuesday and Wednesday in eastern Mosul, but said the civilians had been queuing for emergency assistance when the mortars landed.

"People waiting for aid are already vulnerable and need help. They should be protected, not attacked," she stressed.

"All parties to the conflict - all parties - have an obligation to uphold international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians survive and receive the assistance they need."

In Thursday's attack, three car bombs blew up at an outdoor market in Kukjali, which was recaptured by special forces units at the start of November.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Medical officials say dozens of people are wounded each day in the battle for Mosul
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Iraqi forces have made slow progress since entering eastern districts last month

The Iraqi military did not say whether the explosions were caused by suicide attackers. But IS said three militants had blown themselves up, killing at least 20 "apostates" and destroying several army vehicles.

About 50,000 Iraqi security forces personnel, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen are involved in the offensive to drive IS out of the jihadist group's last major urban stronghold in the country.

Since entering the city's east last month, troops have found their advances hindered by waves of suicide bombings, as well as sniper and shellfire.

More than 107,000 people have so far been displaced as a result of fighting, with most being sheltered in emergency camps and with host communities. In the UN's worst case scenario, as many as one million others may be forced to flee.