At least 28 people have been killed after a shopping street in the heart of the Iraqi capital hit by explosions whose death toll is expected to increase, according to the army.
A rare double suicide bombing killed at least 28 people and injured 73 others on a busy shopping street in the heart of Baghdad on Thursday, the military said, breaking months of relative calm.
Brigadier General Hazem al-Azzawi, director of the Baghdad operations command, told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) that a “double explosion” struck a crowded market in the Bab al-Sharji neighborhood near from Tayaran Square.
Medical sources told AFP news agency they feared the death toll could rise. The health ministry said it had mobilized medics across the capital to respond to the deadly attack.
More than a dozen people killed and dozens injured in the center #Baghdad.
Two suicide bombings in Tayaran Square as suicide bombers with suicide vests blew themselves up.
The first suicide attacks since 2017, officials fear the death toll will rise further.
No liability claims to date. pic.twitter.com/9XoOKlz5nz
– Osama Bin Javaid (@osamabinjavaid) January 21, 2021
Military spokesman Yahya Rasool said two suicide bombers detonated their explosives as they were pursued by security forces.
An AFP reporter at the scene said the bombings hit a huge open-air second-hand clothing market in Tayaran Square.
After years of deadly sectarian violence following the 2003 US invasion, suicide attacks have become relatively rare in the capital. The last such attack took place in June 2019 and killed several people.
Militias have regularly targeted the US presence with rocket and mortar attacks, particularly the US Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone. The pace of attacks has slowed since an informal truce was declared by Iranian-backed armed groups in October.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack immediately, but the suicide bombings were mostly used by ISIS (ISIS).
Iraq declared ISIS defeated at the end of 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign. But the group’s sleeper cells continued to operate in desert and mountainous areas, typically targeting security forces or state infrastructure with low casualty attacks.
“These types of attacks bear the hallmark of ISIS, which has targeted overcrowded civilian areas in Baghdad on several occasions in the past,” said Sajad Jiyad, an Iraqi analyst and member of the Century Foundation think tank.
“This shows a security failure on the part of the government which has been warned that IS is still active and which in recent days has seen it targeting infrastructure and rural areas with similar attacks,” Jiyad said.
“For the Iraqis, this is a worrying development which undermines confidence in the security forces and adds to the level of tension already present with geopolitical, economic and pandemic issues,” Jiyad said.
Additional reporting by Sofia Barbarani