Two suicide bombers struck a busy used clothes market in central Baghdad this morning, killing at least 32 people and injuring at least 110 more. The bombing is the first attack of its kind in central Baghdad in over two years.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry says that the first bomber entered the open-air market at Tayaran (Aviation) Square feigning illness, drawing people close to him before he detonated his suicide belt. The second bomber then detonated his suicide belt among people responding to the victims of the first explosion.
Major General Yehia Rasool, spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, says that the two bombers were being pursued by security forces when they chose to mount an attack instead. The second attack was captured on video by a security camera near the market, although the footage is not able to confirm or disprove the spokesperson’s claims that the bombers were being chased.
No groups have claimed responsibility for the attack as of writing, however, Iraqi Joint Operations Command spokesperson Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji said that it was “a terrorist act perpetrated by a sleeper cell of the Islamic State”. He added that IS “wanted to prove its existence” after being dealt blows by successive military operations targeting it.
Iraq’s Health Ministry has mobilized all hospitals in the city to treat the wounded from the attack. Iraqi security forces have since stepped up their presence in the Bab Al-Sharqi neighbourhood, where the market is located, as well as the Green Zone that is directly across the Tigris from the neighbourhood.
In a tweet condemning the attack, Iraqi President Barham Salih said: “The two terrorist explosions targeting innocent people in Baghdad and at this specific time confirms the attempt by the groups of darkness to target all national entitlements and our people’s aspirations for a safe future”, adding that “We stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilize our country”.
The United States Embassy in Baghdad has issued a statement condemning the attack as well, saying: “This attack is a reprehensible act of cowardice that underscores the dangers of terrorism that millions of Iraqis continue to face. We extend our condolences to the families of these victims, and hope for the swift recovery for those who were injured.”
The bombings come just two days after Iraq’s parliament voted to delay early elections to October this year from the originally planned date in June. The early elections are in response to demands by youth protesters, with the delay supposed to provide Iraq’s electoral commission with more time to implement legal and logistical measures needed for free and fair elections.