BAGHDAD – An attack on a Shiite shrine north of the capital has killed 37 people, Iraqi official said Friday, just hours before Iraq's prime minister fired Baghdad's security chief as public anger mounted over security failings.
According to a statement from his office, Haider al-Abadi fired the commander of Baghdad Operations as the embattled prime minister faced growing protests at the site of a large-scale bombing, where at least 186 people were killed earlier this week.
The Thursday night attack began with a volley of mortar fire on Sayyid Mohammed shrine and a nearby market in Balad, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of the Iraqi capital. A suicide bomber first targeted policemen guarding the shrine's entrance, allowing a second bomber to push into the courtyard with nine gunmen, who targeted security forces and civilians who had gathered inside to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
A third bomber was killed before he detonated his explosives, police officials said.
37 were killed in the attack and 62 wounded, according to police and hospital officials.
Police and hospital officials confirmed the death toll, speaking anonymously as they were not authorized to release information to the media.
In Baghdad, protests were growing at the scene of last weekend's car bomb attack, which was one of the deadliest since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Many Iraqis blame their political leadership for security lapses that allow such large-scale bombings to happen in territory far from the front-line fighting against IS.
Small-scale bombings occur on a near-daily basis in Baghdad, and in May a string of larger attacks, many of them claimed by IS, killed more than 200 people in a single week.
After the Baghdad attack, al-Abadi announced new security measures, but it was unclear if any of the measures have yet been implemented.
The minister of interior submitted his resignation Tuesday, but Al-Abadi has not accepted it.
The Islamic State group was pushed out of Fallujah last month after holding the city just west of Baghdad for more than two years. Despite a string of territorial defeats, IS still holds pockets of territory in northern and western Iraq, including the country's second largest city of Mosul.