Iraq: Daesh claims Baghdad bombing that killed 32

Baghdad: Daesh claimed responsibility for a twin suicide bombing that killed 32 people and wounded 110 at a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday.

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It was the deadliest attack on the city in three years, when another suicide bomber targeted the same area.

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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.

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As more people then flocked to the scene to help the victims, a second suicide bomber set off his explosives.

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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 country.

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An AFP 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.

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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.

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After midnight, Daesh posted a claim of responsibility for the attack on its online propaganda channels.

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Such violence was commonplace in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003 and later on as Daesh swept across much of Iraq and also targeted the capital.

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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.

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‘Senseless and barbaric’

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President Barham Saleh led political figures in condemning Thursday’s attack, saying the government would “stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilise our country”.

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Pope Francis, who hopes to visit Iraq in March, deplored the “senseless act of brutality”.

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The United States, the United Nations and the European Union strongly condemned the attack.

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US acting secretary of state Daniel Smith said the bombings “were vicious acts of mass murder and a sobering reminder of the terrorism that continues to threaten the lives of innocent Iraqis”.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an appeal “to the people of Iraq to reject any attempts to spread fear and violence aimed at undermining peace, stability and unity.”

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The EU called the attack “senseless and barbaric” and reiterated its “full support to the Iraqi authorities in the fight against extremism and terrorism.”

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The UN’s Iraq mission offered condolences to the victims and said: “Such a despicable act will not weaken Iraq’s march towards stability and prosperity.”

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Iran also denounced the attack, with foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh saying his government was ready to assist Iraq “in the struggle against terrorism and extremism”.

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The attack, he said, was meant “to disrupt the peace and stability of Iraq and to provide a pretext for foreigners to maintain their presence there”.

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Elections looming

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The attack comes as Iraqis prepare for an election, events often preceded by bombings and assassinations.

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The 2018 attack took place just a few months before Iraq’s last round of parliamentary elections.

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Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhemi had originally set this year’s general election for June, nearly a year ahead of schedule, in response to widespread protests in 2019.

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But authorities are in talks over rescheduling them to October, to give electoral authorities more time to register voters and new parties.

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Daesh seized a third of Iraq in 2014 and was dangerously close to the capital, but a ferocious three-year fight by Iraqi troops pushed them back.

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Still, the group’s sleeper cells have continued to operate in desert and mountain areas, typically targeting security forces or state infrastructure with low casualty attacks.

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The US-led coalition that had been supporting Iraq’s campaign against IS has significantly drawn down its troop levels over the past year, citing the increased capabilities of Iraqi forces.

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The United States, which provides the bulk of the force, has 2,500 troops left in Iraq — down from 5,200 a year ago.

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They are mainly in charge of training, providing drone surveillance and carrying out air strikes while Iraqi security forces handle security in urban areas.

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