Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad, killing at least 32

Iraqi Health Minister Hassan Mohammed al-Tamimi said at least 32 people were killed and 110 others injured in the attack. He said some of the wounded were in serious condition. The Iraqi military previously put the death toll at 28.

The Ministry of Health announced that all hospitals in the capital had been mobilized to treat the wounded.

Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes a number of Iraqi forces, said the first suicide bomber screamed loudly that he was sick in the middle of the busy market and caused a crowd to gather him – and then he detonated his explosive belt. The second detonated his belt shortly afterwards, he said.

“This is a terrorist act committed by an Islamic State dormitory,” said al-Khafaji. He said ISIS wants to “prove its existence” after suffering many beatings in military operations aimed at exterminating the militants.

The suicide bombings were the first in three years to target Baghdad’s busy industrial park. Shortly after the then Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic state group, a suicide attack took place in the same area in 2018.

No one immediately took responsibility for Thursday’s attack, but attacks have been carried out in Iraq in recent months by both the Islamic State group and militia groups.

Militias routinely attacked the American presence in Iraq with rocket and mortar attacks, particularly the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified green zone. However, the pace of these attacks has slowed since an informal ceasefire was signed by Iranian-backed armed groups in October.

The style of attack on Thursday was similar to what ISIS has carried out in the past. But the group has rarely been able to invade the capital since it was ousted by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition in 2017.

ISIS has demonstrated the ability to carry out increasingly sophisticated attacks across northern Iraq, where it is still present three years after the group was declared victorious in Iraq.

In rural areas of Kirkuk and Diyala, Iraqi security forces are often ambushed and attacked with IEDs. Attacks rose last summer when militants took advantage of the government’s focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday’s double bombs came days after the Iraqi government unanimously agreed to hold early elections in October. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced in July that early elections would take place to meet the demands of anti-government demonstrators.

Last year tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand political change and an end to rampant corruption and poor services. More than 500 people were killed in mass demonstrations as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Iraq is also grappling with a severe economic crisis, triggered by low oil prices, which has led the government to borrow internally and run the risk of their foreign currency reserves being depleted. The Iraqi central bank devalued the Iraqi dinar by almost 20% last year to meet spending commitments.

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