The ISIL (ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for a twin suicide bombing – the deadliest in nearly three years – that ripped through a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday, killing 32 people and wounding 110 others.
The first attacker drew a crowd at the bustling market in the capital’s Tayaran Square by claiming to feel sick, then detonated his explosives belt, the Interior Ministry said.
As more people then flocked to the scene to help the victims, a second suicide bomber set off his explosives.
The attack is the first twin bombing in Baghdad since January 2018, when 35 people were killed and 90 injured in the same square that was hit on Thursday.
The open-air market, where second-hand clothes are sold at stalls, had been teeming with people after the lifting of nearly a year of COVID-19 restrictions across the Middle Eastern country.
An AFP news agency photographer at the scene said security forces had cordoned off the area, where blood-soaked clothes were strewn across the muddy streets and paramedics were rushing to take away the casualties.
The Health Ministry said those who lost their lives had died on the scene of the attack, and that most of the wounded had been treated and released from hospital.
After midnight, ISIL posted a claim of responsibility for the attack on its online propaganda channels.
ISIL remains operational
Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn said despite the Iraqi government declaring it has territorially defeated ISIL, the group never really went away.
“[ISIL] had a relatively seamless transition into an insurgency and even though it was pushed out from the urban areas into the rural areas, it continued to operate and stage attacks on security forces and checkpoints in remote areas,” she said, speaking from Baghdad.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein has acknowledged that ISIL is still a threat, and that the country needed support from the region and international countries, she continued.
“But we also have to say it is really difficult to quantify how strong an organisation really is,” Foltyn added. “We do know that the US-led coalition to fight ISIL underreports cases of attacks by ISIL especially in remote rural areas because they rely on Iraqi security forces to report the cases.”
‘Resolve’ against ISIL
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadhimi hailed the citizens’ “resolve” against ISIL’s heinous crime.
“Our people have proven their resolve in the face of Daesh’s terrorism,” he said on Twiiter, referring to ISIL by their acronym in Arabic.
“The will to live among our people as they face terrorism in the scene of the heinous crime at Bab al-Sharqi was a message of defiance and unparalleled courage.”
Al-Kadhimi reshuffled several top security officials following the attack.
Such violence was commonplace in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003 and later on as ISIL swept across much of Iraq and also took aim at the capital.
But with the group’s territorial defeat in late 2017, suicide bombings in the city became rare. Baghdad’s concrete blast walls were dismantled and checkpoints across the city removed.