Islamic State Suicide Bombers Attack Bustling Baghdad Market, Killing 32


Twin suicide bombings ripped through a busy market in the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding dozens in what was the first massive bombing there in years.

The bombings hit a commercial area in central Baghdad amid heightened political tensions over planned early elections and a severe economic crisis.

Blood was splattered on the pavement of the busy market as survivors took stock of the disarray in the aftermath. By sundown, crowds reappeared at the site of the deadly attack, carrying the coffins of the slain.

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

Iraq’s health minister Hassan Mohammed al-Tamimi said at least 32 people were killed and 110 were wounded in the attack. He said some of the wounded were in serious condition.

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

Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji 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, before detonating 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 ISIS “wanted to prove its existence” after suffering many blows in military operations to root out the militants.

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At the Vatican, Pope Francis denounced the attack as a “senseless act of brutality” and urged Iraqis to keep working for fraternity and peace. Francis is due to visit Iraq in early March to encourage the country’s Christian communities that have been devastated by ISIS persecution.

Thursday’s twin suicide bombings were the first in three years to target Baghdad’s commercial district. 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, a Sunni militant group.

Iraq has seen attacks perpetrated by both the Islamic State group and mostly Shiite militia groups in recent months.

Militias have routinely targeted the American presence in Iraq with rocket and mortar attacks, especially the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The pace of those attacks, however, has decreased since an informal truce was declared in October.

The style of Thursday’s assault was similar to those ISIS has conducted in the past. But the group has rarely been able to penetrate the capital since being dislodged by Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition in 2017.

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The Islamic State group has shown an ability to stage increasingly sophisticated attacks across northern Iraq, where it still maintains a presence. Iraqi security forces are frequently ambushed and targeted with IEDs in rural areas.

The twin bombings on 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 elections would be held to meet the demands of anti-government protesters.

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 percent last year to meet spending obligations.

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