Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad, at least 28 dead

Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad, at least 28 dead

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Baghdad: Officials said that there were two suicide bombings in a busy market in the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing at least 28 people and wounding 73 people.

The rare suicide bombing attack hit the Bab al-Sharqi commercial area in central Baghdad amid heightened political tensions over planned early elections and a severe economic crisis. Blood smeared the floors of the busy market amid piles of clothes and shoes as survivors took stock of the disarray in the aftermath.

No one immediately took responsibility for the attack, but Iraqi military officials said it was the work of the Islamic State group.

Iraq’s military said at least 28 people were killed and 73 wounded in the attack and said some of the injured were in serious condition. Several health and police officials said the toll might be higher. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Health Ministry announced all of its hospitals in the capital were mobilized to treat the wounded.

Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes an array of Iraqi forces, said the first suicide bomber cried out loudly that he was ill in the middle of the bustling market, prompting a crowd to gather around him — and that’s when he detonated his explosive belt. The second detonated his belt shortly after, he said.

“This is a terrorist act perpetrated by a sleeper cell of the Islamic State,” al-Khafaji said. He said IS “wanted to prove its existence” after suffering many blows in military operations to root out the militants.

The suicide bombings marked the first in three years to target Baghdad’s bustling commercial area. A suicide bomb attack took place in the same area in 2018 shortly after then-Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State group.

No one was immediately responsible for Thursday’s attack, but in recent months, both the Islamic State group and the militia have launched attacks on Iraq.

Militia organizations often use rockets and mortars to attack the US presence in Iraq, especially the US embassy in the green zone fortified in Baghdad. However, the pace of these attacks has declined since October when Iran-backed armed groups announced an informal truce.

The attack on Thursday was similar to that of IS in the past. But since being expelled by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition in 2017, the organization has rarely been able to penetrate the capital.

IS has shown its ability to carry out increasingly sophisticated attacks in northern Iraq, and IS has maintained its presence three years after Iraq announced its defeat of the organization.

Iraqi security forces are often attacked and attacked by improvised explosive devices in the rural areas of Kirkuk and Diyala. Last summer, as militants took advantage of the government’s attention to the coronavirus pandemic, attacks increased.

The twin bombings Thursday came days after Iraq’s government unanimously agreed to hold early elections in October. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had announced in July that early polls would be held to meet the demands of anti-government protesters.

Demonstrators took to the streets in the tens of thousands last year to demand political change, and an end to rampant corruption and poor services. More than 500 people were killed in mass demonstrations as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds.

Iraq is also grappling with a severe economic crisis brought on by low oil prices that has led the government to borrow internally and risk depleting its foreign currency reserves. The Central Bank of Iraq devalued Iraq’s dinar by nearly 20% last year to meet spending obligations.

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