Double suicide bombing in Baghdad leaves 32 people dead

The capital's Bab al-Sharqi market has suffered a double bombing in broad daylight, leaving dozens injured
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REUTERS/THAIER AL-SUDANI  -   Site of double suicide bombing at a central market in Baghdad, Iraq

Two suicide bombings took place in Baghdad on Thursday. They struck a busy market in the Iraqi capital, taking 32 lives and injuring dozens, officials said. 

No immediate responsibility has been given for the attack, but Iraqi military officials suspect it was the work of Daesh. 

The attack hit the Bab al-Sharqi shopping area in the centre of the capital amid heightened political tension ahead of early elections and an economic crisis. 

Iraqi Health Minister Hassan Mohamed al-Tamimi said at least 32 people were killed and 110 others wounded in the attack. Some of the wounded are in serious condition and the Iraqi army had previously put the death toll at 28. It also announced that all its hospitals in the capital were mobilised to treat the wounded.

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REUTERS/THAIER AL-SUDANI - Iraqi security forces stand guard at the scene of a double suicide bombing at a central market in Baghdad, Iraq.

In addition, Joint Operations Command spokesman Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji said the first suicide bomber shouted out loud in the middle of the market that he was sick. This caused a crowd of people to gather around him. He then detonated his explosive belt, followed by the second bomber.

He said that "this is a terrorist act perpetrated by an Islamic State sleeper cell". He added that Daesh "wanted to prove its existence" after suffering many blows in military operations to annihilate militants.

These suicide attacks marked the first in three years as another took place in 2018 in the same area. It was after then prime minister Haidar al-Abadi proclaimed victory over the extremist group. 

Although no one has yet claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack, Iraq has witnessed attacks from both Daesh and radical militias in recent months. The latter have consistently targeted the US presence on Iraqi soil with rockets and mortars, particularly the US Embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone. However, attacks have decreased since the Iranian-backed Shi'ite armed groups declared an informal truce in October. 

Despite this assault being similar to those usually carried out by Daesh, the group has rarely been able to penetrate the capital since it was dislodged by Iraqi forces and the US-led partnership in 2017.

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AP/HADI MIZBAN - Two suicide bombings hit Iraq's capital killing and injuring civilians

In the rural areas of Kirkuk and Diyala, Iraqi security forces are often ambushed and attacked with explosive devices. The previous summer saw an increase in attacks as militants took advantage of the government's increased focus on efforts to crack down on the coronavirus.

The Iraqi government had decided to bring forward elections in October and Mustafa al-Kazemi announced in July that the first elections would be held to meet the demands of anti-government protesters.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets last year to call for political change and an end to corruption and poor services. More than 500 people were killed in these protests when security forces used live bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

In addition, low oil prices, which have led to domestic indebtedness, and the health crisis caused by COVID-19 have led to a severe economic crisis in the country. The Central Bank of Iraq devalued the Iraqi dinar by almost 20 per cent last year to meet spending obligations.