First, they came for Istanbul. Last week, three suspected Islamic State militants launched a brazen assault on Turkey’s main airport, exploding their suicide vests after gunning down numerous passengers and airport staff. At least 45 people were killed.
The world panicked. American TV anchors wondered: Are our airports safe? Could this happen on July 4 here?
Next, they came for Dhaka. Gunmen whom many have linked to the Islamic State raided a popular cafe in an upscale neighborhood in Bangladesh’s teeming capital. After a 10-hour standoff, authorities stormed the establishment; at least 20 hostages, mostly Italian and Japanese nationals, died at the militants’ hands. U.S. college students also were among the dead.
Then, they attacked Baghdad. Early Sunday, as hundreds of Iraqis gathered during the holy month of Ramadan, a car bomb exploded in the Karada shopping district. At least 115, including many children, were killed. The area is predominantly Shia, making it a choice target for the Sunni extremist group.
More than 450 people have been killed in ISIS-linked attacks in Iraq just this calendar year, including a hideous week of bombings in Baghdad in mid-May.
It’s unlikely that this attack, just the latest in an unending stream of tragedy to envelop the Iraqi capital, will generate the same panic in the West as the earlier two incidents. For years now, we have become almost numb to the violence in Baghdad: Deadly car bombings there conjure up no hashtags, no Facebook profile pictures with the Iraqi flag, no Western newspaper front pages of the victims’ names.
Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the bungled occupation that followed, Baghdad has been the site of numerous rounds of sectarian bloodletting, al-Qaida attacks and now the ravages of ISIS. Despite suffering significant defeats at the hands of the Iraqi army, including the recent loss of Fallujah, the group has shown its willingness and capacity to continue to brutalize the country’s population.