The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a crowded market in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 32 people in Iraq’s first major suicide bombing in three years, authorities said, describing it as a possible sign of Islamic State reactivation.
The Islamic State claimed early Friday that two of its men had blown up in Tayaran Square in central Baghdad, according to a statement published on the group’s Telegram communication channel.
Reuters reporters arrived after the explosions saw blood pools and discarded shoes at the site, a clothing market on Tayaran Square in the center of the city. The health authorities said that at least 110 people had been injured.
“A (bomber) came, fell to the ground and started complaining ‘my stomach hurts’ and he pressed the detonator in his hand. It exploded immediately. People are torn apart,” said a street vendor who did not give his name.
Suicide attacks, once almost daily in the Iraqi capital, have been halted in recent years since Islamic State fighters were defeated in 2017, as part of an overall security improvement that has returned normal life to Baghdad.
“Daesh terrorist groups may be behind the attacks,” Chief of Civil Defense Major General Kadhim Salman told reporters, using an Arabic abbreviation for Islamic State.
A video taken from a roof and circulated on social media is said to show the second explosion that has gathered in the area. Pictures shared online, which Reuters could not independently verify, showed several dead and wounded.
Thursday’s attack took place in the same market that was fought in the latest major attack, in January 2018, when at least 27 people were killed.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi held an urgent meeting with top security chiefs to discuss Thursday’s attacks, the prime minister’s office said in a brief statement. Iraqi security forces were deployed and key roads were blocked to prevent any further attacks.
After the urgent meeting, Kadhimi fired key security and police officers, deputy interior minister for intelligence services, head of terrorism and intelligence service in the interior ministry and commanders of federal police forces, a military spokesman said in a statement.
Suicide attacks on civilian targets were an almost daily tactic by mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents during the US occupation of Iraq following the invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 and were later employed by the Islamic State, whose fighters swept over a third of the country in 2014.
Until 2017, the fighters had been driven out of all the territory they held, although they have continued to make a low revolt against Iraqi forces and attack officials mainly in northern areas.