NEW DELHI: At least 140 people have been killed in a terror attack in Baghdad, as a car bomb exploded near a restaurant and shopping area in the central district of Karrada late on Saturday. The attack is the latest in a string of particularly deadly terror attacks across the world this week -- with 140 killed in Baghdad, 28 killed in Dhaka, 37 killed in Kabul and 41 killed in Istanbul.

The Baghdad attack took place as the street was busy with shoppers after sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. A second bomb exploded later in a predominantly Shia area north of the capital, killing another five people.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Many of those killed in the attack, close to midnight, were children, Associated Press reported.

The attack rounds off a particularly deadly week. On Saturday, an attack on a cafe in Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka killed 28 people, mostly foreigners. A hundred Bangladeshi commandos were involved in the counter offensive that took 12 hours to end the siege.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to its media branch, Amaq. Several officials have cast doubts on the authenticity of the claim. In Bangladesh specifically, the context of local Islamist groups is crucial to understanding the roots of extremism.

A few days before that on Thursday, a twin suicide attack targeting a convoy of buses carrying Afghan police cadets outside of the capital and killed 37 people.

Also this week, three suspected Islamic State bombers opened fire and then blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main airport on Tuesday. At least 41 people were killed in the attack.

All though three of the above terror attacks were claimed by the Islamic State, the claim and the media attention accorded to it obfuscated local factors and context involved -- specifically of the country’s conception of nationalism and where minorities fit in within that.

In Iraq, the Islamic State still controls large swathes of territory in the country's north and west, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. The latest attack comes as a counter offensive to liberate the city of Fallujah was successful.

It is fair for readers to treat the operation as welcome news, after all who doesn’t despise religious fanaticism, and for good measure. Except, nothing in West Asia is immune from the complications created by sectarian divisions, political mismanagement and the often unwelcome role and influence of international powers. Fallujah is no different and has its own history written in blood and torment. This troubled past needs to be understood in order to answer the questions that impact its present.

Fallujah is located some 70 kilometers away from Baghdad and was known to constitute a part of the “Sunni triangle” i.e. the area of influence considered the political monopoly of Saddam Hussain. The first major wave of violence struck the city during the Gulf War that saw it suffer massive civilian casualties. It ended up being a grim precursor of things to come.

The United States invasion of 2003 changed the face of the hitherto bustling town forever. Fallujah was targeted and flattened in the initial days of the ‘shock and awe’ bombing of Iraq. The invasion brought with it a deadly re-emergence of sectarian tensions in Iraq. As the Ba’athist monopoly of power was systematically destroyed, factions quickly emerged all over the country grounded in the primary divisions of Shiite and Sunni.Extremists looking to fill the power vacuum formed bases in Sunni majority areas, like Fallujah and Ramadi.

The US established a largely unpopular presence in the city in April 2003. Mass civilian protests on April 28, 2003 resulted in the American troops opening fire that led to the death of 17 civilians. The local resentment was only exacerbated by the event and after a few more skirmishes, only a token force of US soldiers remained in Fallujah. By March 2004, Islamic insurgents had established firm control in the city. On March 31, four American private military contractors employed by Blackwater were ambushed. They were then paraded through the city and ultimately burned alive. It was time for Uncle Sam to respond, and respond he did.

Operation Vigilant Resolve was launched by the US Marines. The operation was largely unsuccessful as a combination of insurgent resistance and capitulation by the Iraqi National Guard meant the city remained firmly in the grip of the insurgents. The next few months saw sporadic fighting as the US continued with the airstrikes. The insurgents leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi gained popularity at this time for claiming to successfully repel “the invaders.”As daily firefights became the norm, the Americans started to plan a major offensive to “cleanse” the city. The operation was infamously named Phantom Fury and was launched on November 8, 2004. It was publicly authorized by the then Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to “liberate the people of Fallujah.”

What followed was the bloodiest battle of the war. About 13,500 American, British and Iraqi soldiers sought to wrest control of the city from Zarqawi’s men that numbered around 3,000. Due to the public nature of the offensive, a majority of the city’s population was forced to flee before the offensive was to begin. The operation went on till December 2004 and saw both sides suffer multiple casualties in a bloody battle.

The coalition forces failed to capture some of the prominent insurgent leaders, including Zarqawi who fled the city before the offensive began. However, the most harrowing aspect of the operation was the humanitarian crisis it led to. Over 800 civilians were killed during the operation, large areas of the city including residential spaces, hospitals, schools and other civilian establishments were leveled by the aerial bombardment.

This meant that thousands of Iraqis were left homeless and internally displaced in a war torn country after an operation that sought to liberate the city for them to return to, the irony wasn’t lost on the citizens. If this was not enough, conclusive reports emerged in the following months highlighting the use of white phosphorous on citizens by the American military, reflected in the many burned corpses that lined the city streets.

The next decade saw continued insurgent activity in the Anbar province where Fallujah is located. The massive damage suffered by Fallujah resonated in nearby cities like Ramadi that also had a Sunni majority population. The continued failure of the majorly Shia led government to sustain the administration of a failing state meant that insurgents over the country started to coalesce into larger groups driven by fanaticism, challenging official authority.

However, the support declined as the ultraconservative brand of Islam that they wanted to impose became clearer. This led to years of fighting between the insurgents, local resistance forces and the Iraqi army.

Fallujah was incidentally one of the first cities overtaken by the militants in January 2014. They would go on to capture swathes of land across Syria and Iraq including important cities like Mosul, Raqqa and Ramadi.

The present offensive to recapture the city has been inspired by the recent successes of the larger Anbar offensive that has led to the liberation of Ramadi and Hit among others. The Islamic State has been facing a revenue crunch as it loses strategically important territory. It has responded by raising taxes that make up a substantial portion of its finances. It has also come up with new “fines” like ones for leaving the front door open, or on women for leaving their house without wearing socks, gloves to make up for the loss. The Islamic State fighters have also seen their salaries slashed. The constant displacement faced by the people is what forces the wide scale migration to seemingly prosperous states of Europe that require treacherous and expensive sails across the Mediterranean that only a few survive. The inability of the governments to ensure basic sustenance is what drives scores of youth towards religious fanaticism and ensures the cyclical nature of this crisis.

Similarly, local context is crucial to understanding the roots of extremism in Dhaka, where 28 people were killed in an attack on Saturday. Local experts had almost immediately pointed to this being the handiwork of Bangladeshi extremist groups and not necessarily of IS that seems to be rushing to claim violence--wherever it happens--- to assure its cadres probably that it is still alive and kicking hard. Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has now confirmed local involvement by stating categorically that this massacre of 20 innocent persons was not by the Islamic State but a homegrown banned organisation Jamaat-ul Mujahideen.

The 7 terrorists were local Bangladeshis, of whom five had been on the police scanner earlier. JMB was founded in 1998 in Bangladesh, carried out bomb attacks and violence, was banned in 2005 but while it went underground, it kept up the violence. Its targets were government, secularists and the minorities, and reports from Dhaka confirm that its cadres had regrouped earlier this year to carry out the series of machete attacks on specific individuals from these groups. In the Dhaka terror attack now, the foreigners were hacked to death by machetes as well indicating a local modus operandi.

This group was opposed to secularism and wanted Bangladesh to be a religious state run on Sharia laws.It is close to the Taliban in ideology. The new wave of violence starting with targeted assassinations, follows a crackdown by the Sheikh Hasina government against JMB leaders,including its top man Maulana Abdur Rahman who was executed by hanging for killing two judges and a series of bombings across the country in 2005. Five other leaders were executed by the government over the last year.

However, as is being pointed out in Dhaka the government was unable to follow up on these executions by sealing the activities of the group, that returned to violence with the machete attacks and now, as the Home Minister there said, this terror attack. Poor policing, overstretched resources, bad intelligence are some of the reasons being noted in the Bangladesh media as reasons for the poor state response.

Secular traditions of what was then East Pakistan were sought to be repressed by despots in Pakistan shortly after independence, with the ‘freedom’ in 1971 leaving a new country torn between the conservative forces that had taken hold, and the secular aspirations within. This struggle, also reflected at levels in the virulent personalised feud between Sheikh Hasina (daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who ‘liberated’ Bangladesh from the Pakistani yoke with the mandate to run a secular government) and Khaleda Zia (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) under whose terms in office the conservative forces and the JMB got a boost and a virtual heads up to push fundamentalist ideology forward.

This struggle has become more intense and more bloody with time. The crackdown by the Sheikh Hasina government on JMB and those who had worked with the Pakistan Army against Bangladesh during the war of liberation, has clearly led to a consolidation of the extremist forces. This has been evident for a while now in the growing number of attacks and secularists and minorities with the terror attack in a posh, and supposedly secure, part of Dhaka unnerving all those fighting for a secular order in Bangladesh.

Similarly, in Turkey, understanding the violence means understanding Turkey’s own relationship with its minorities. The attack came as Turkey sees an escalation in violence, as a result of a combination of factors -- tensions with Kurdish separatists, developments in Syria, and Turkey’s own track record involving the two. A two year ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish militant group PKK broke down last summer. Further, Turkey is part of the US-led coalition that is fighting the Islamic State, making the country a clear target for the group.

Recent attacks have been claimed by both the Islamic State and by Kurdish separatists. Some recent attacks include an attack on a police vehicle in Istanbul last month that killed 11 people; an attack by Kurdish militants in Ankara that killed 36 people in March; a suicide blast in Istanbul that killed 4 in March; 28 people killed in a military convoy in Ankara in February; 12 German tourists killed in a bombing suspected to have the hand of the Islamic State in Istanbul in January; and more than a 100 people killed last year in October at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara.

In fact, Turkey -- it can be said -- is in serious crisis. The government is at war against the Kurds in the southeast; war is raging in Syria and Iraq on the border; and Islamic State is steadily making inroads into Turkey.

The escalation in violence is a result of Turkey’s two pronged conflict -- on its border as part of the US-coalition against the Islamic State and within its borders given its long, complicated history with Kurdish groups. Whilst the engagement against the Islamic State is more recent, the government in Ankara has for decades fought a war with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). For two years, a ceasefire brought relative peace to the country, but this broke down last summer after a bombing killed 32 young Kurdish and left-wing activists in the south-eastern city of Suruc in July.

In fact, it was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s enthusiasm for the overthrow of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in 2011 that has undone so much in the path toward peace -- including the ceasefire with the PKK. The breakdown in relations with the PKK can be traced to events prior to the attack in Suruc, with a turning point being the 28 December 2011 attack on thirty-four Kurdish smugglers on the Turkey-Iraq borderlands by the Turkish air force. The questions that followed the attack -- of why the Turkish forces fired at thirty eight men and boys and their mules -- never received a clear answer. The official inquiry published in 2013 did not clarify anything; instead, it suggested -- without evidence -- that the smugglers had other motives, and that they had been infiltrated by two commanders of the PKK – Cudi Gui and Kazim. Later, it was insinuated that target of the government’s attack was PKK commander Fehman Hüseyin. The government went as far as saying that these men were all with the smugglers -- and when the attack began, they took cover. None of these claims are backed by any evidence. The December 2011 attack is all the more important when seen in context of the impunity accorded to it, paving the way for the current Turkish state’s violence against the Kurds. Turkish operations have virtually destroyed large parts of the country’s southeast, with cities such as Diyarbakir, Cirze and Silopi coming to resemble “war zones.” The violence perpetrated by the Turkish state has led to counter violence, with the PKK calling off the ceasefire and a cycle of attacks and counter attacks coming to characterise Turkish polity and society.