Mon | May 10, 2021

Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad, at least 32 dead

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2021 | 1:25 PM
People and security forces gather at the site of a deadly bomb attack in a market selling used clothes, Iraq, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Twin suicide bombings hit Iraq's capital Thursday killing and wounding civilians, police and state TV said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

BAGHDAD (AP) — Twin suicide bombings ripped through a busy market in the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding dozens, officials said in what was the first massive bombing in years, harkening back to darker days of rampant militant attacks.

The rare suicide bombing hit the Bab al-Sharqi 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 amid piles of clothes and shoes 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 deceased in a show of defiance. Many questioned the timing of the attack, which occurred a day after President Joe Biden was sworn into office. The U.S.-led coalition recently ceased combat activities and is gradually drawing down its troop presence in Iraq, sparking fears of an IS resurgence.

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. Iraq’s military previously put the number of dead at 28. The Health Ministry announced that 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 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.

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