At least 28 people died on Thursday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a market in central Baghdad. A first man set off his explosive belt amidst vendors and onlookers in the second-hand clothing market in Tayaran Square. While a crowd was forming to try to come to the aid of the victims, a second suicide bomber detonated his explosives.
Latest assessment given by the official Iraqi agency: 28 dead and 73 injured. Doctors say they are overwhelmed in the metropolis of ten million inhabitants, where the Ministry of Health has announced that it has placed all medical staff on high alert.
In the square, a busy crossroads in Baghdad, puddles of blood were visible, as were shreds of clothing torn to pieces by the explosions. Soldiers and paramedics were deployed en masse, the first blocking access and the second busy moving bodies or helping the wounded, in a ballet of ambulances with heady sirens.
An attack with exactly the same modus operandi had already mourned this same place, killing 31 people, almost three years ago to the day.
A modus operandi reminiscent of the Islamic State
As in 2018, this attack comes as the authorities are discussing the organization of a legislative election, a deadline regularly accompanied by violence in Iraq.
The attack was not immediately claimed, but this modus operandi has been used in the past by the Islamic State (IS) group, which occupied nearly a third of Iraq in 2014 before Baghdad declares having won his war against the jihadists at the end of 2017.
Since then, jihadist cells have taken refuge in the many mountainous and desert areas of the country. So far, however, ISIS has only claimed responsibility for small-scale attacks, usually carried out at night against military positions in isolated areas far from cities. The last attacks that killed several people in Baghdad date back to June 2019.
The authorities are currently proposing to postpone the early legislative elections scheduled for June until October, in order to give the Electoral Commission more time to organize the poll. A postponement which remains suspended upon the dissolution of Parliament, a measure which must be voted on by parliamentarians alone.
American troops less present
This attack comes as the United States has reduced the number of its troops in Iraq to 2,500 troops. A decline which “reflects the increase in the capabilities of the Iraqi army”, in the words of Pentagon chief Christopher Miller. This reduction “does not mean a change in US policy,” he stressed. “The United States and the coalition forces remain in Iraq to ensure a lasting defeat” of ISIS.
The United States has led an international coalition deployed in Iraq since 2014 to fight ISIS. Almost all of the troops from other coalition member states left the country in 2020, at the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic.