Two suicide bombings in the eastern half of the Iraqi city of Mosul, including one that hit a popular restaurant, killed at least five people on Friday and wounded over a dozen others, Iraqi military and medical officials said.
The Islamic State group (I.S.), which still firmly controls western Mosul, a more densely populated urban area, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul liberated from I.S. weeks ago, allowing for a semblance of normalcy to slowly return to that part of the city — including residents playing soccer games and walking about without the restrictions imposed by the Sunni militant group. I.S. had ruled the entire city and large swaths of northern and western Iraq for over two years, imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
The restaurant targeted on Friday — the popular Sayda Jamila, located near a traffic circle by the same name — was among a few that had recently reopened. Shops selling clothing, mobile phones and fresh produce trucked in from nearby Irbil have also opened their doors, though clean drinking water and other services remain in short supply in eastern Mosul.
Along with four people killed in the restaurant blast, seven were wounded, Iraqi military and security officials said.
The second attack on Friday targeted a checkpoint in the Nour neighborhood and killed one solider and wounded seven people, according to military officials. Three soldiers were among those wounded in the checkpoint attack. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters
Officers on the ground appealed for better intelligence to prevent attacks like Friday’s, apparently meant to undermine the Iraqi forces’ efforts to maintain security in eastern Mosul ahead for the much larger battle that awaits, the one for the city’s western half.
“We need support from the central government for intelligence work,” said Brig. Gen. Wathaq al-Hamdani, Nineveh’s police chief. Al-Hamdani said the area of the restaurant attack has since been closed off and blamed the attack on an I.S. sleeper cell.
Within hours, I.S. claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement carried by the IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency. However, the militant statement claimed I.S. had launched three suicide attacks, one with an explosives-laden car and two with bombers on foot, carrying explosives’ vests. It said the attacks took place the neighborhoods of Nour, al-Zuhour and al-Ziraei.
Iraqi and U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of the threats of I.S. insurgents in territory declared liberated from the militants.