The Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group on Friday claimed responsibility for car bombings at two upscale Baghdad hotels that officials said killed at least nine people and wounded dozens, AFP reports.
The terrorists were able to transport the bombs, which exploded just before midnight on Thursday and were heard across the city center, inside the walled compounds of the Ishtar and Babylon hotels in central Baghdad.
ISIS, which has overrun swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad since June last year, said in an online statement that suicide bombers had been ready to detonate the bombs but were able to leave them and avoid detection.
The blast at the Ishtar — formerly a Sheraton — shattered windows of the recently renovated hotel, turning rows of expensive cars and SUVs into charred, twisted metal.
The force of the explosion turned some cars on their sides, and more than 15 heavily damaged vehicles still sat in the car park on Friday, according to AFP.
The Ishtar is a popular site for wedding celebrations, and the area — which also includes a club and the Palestine Hotel — is crowded with people on Thursday nights.
Despite the bombing, security at the entrance to the Ishtar compound was still light on Friday, and one man told guards that the "same procedures" were in place before and failed to stop the attack.
A second bombing struck the car park at the Babylon, another upmarket and recently refurbished hotel that overlooks the Tigris river, late on Thursday.
Police said security forces found another car bomb in the Babylon car park and defused the device.
The Babylon blast left holes in a section of the hotel and shattered its windows.
A years-old midnight curfew was lifted in February after Iraqi forces retook areas around Baghdad from ISIS and a huge car bomb-making cell was dismantled.
Attacks have continued since but are less frequent than the previous year.
ISIS, which is still battling government forces barely 18 miles west of the capital, has claimed many of the biggest attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country.
In April, car bombs in the Baghdad area, including one near a hospital, killed at least eight people.
Two days earlier, seven people were killed and 31 wounded in a car bomb blast in Baghdad's western neighborhood of Bayaa.
Another two people were killed the same day by a roadside bomb in Taji, just north of the capital.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)