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January 22, 2021

Twin suicide blasts kill 30 in Baghdad No group yet claims responsibility of bombings

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January 22, 2021

BAGHDAD: A rare twin suicide bombing killed nearly 30 in central Baghdad on Thursday, Iraqi state media said, the deadliest attack in the city in three years. At least 28 people were killed and another 73 wounded in the attack on a huge open-air market for second-hand clothes in the Iraqi capital’s Tayaran Square. The market had been teeming with people following nearly a year of restrictions imposed across the country in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19. According to an interior ministry statement, the first suicide bomber rushed into the market, claiming to feel sick. Once a crowd of people had gathered around him, he detonated his explosives. As people then flocked around the victims, a second attacker detonated his bomb, theministry said. An AFP photographer at the scene said security forces had cordoned off the area, where blood-stained clotheswere strewn about the muddy streets. Paramedics wereworking to remove casualties, and Iraq´s health ministry said it had mobilised medics across the capital. Thursday´s attack was the bloodiest incident in Baghdad since January 2018, when a suicide bomber also in Tayaran Square killed more than 30 people. Suicide bombings had been commonplace in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003. Later on, as the Islamic State group swept across much of Iraq, its jihadists also targeted the capital. But with the group´s territorial defeat in late 2017, suicide bombings in the city became rare. Baghdad ´s notorious concrete blast walls were dismantled and checkpoints across the city removed. Thursday´s attack comes as Iraqis prepare for an election, events which are often preceded by bombings and assassinations. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi had originally set this year´s general election for June, nearly a year ahead of schedule, in response towidespread protests in 2019. But authorities are in talks

over rescheduling themto October in order to give electoral authorities more time to register voters and new parties. Thursday´s twin attack was not immediately claimed but suicide bombings have been used by ultra-conservative Islamist groups, most recently IS. 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. Still, the USled 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 troops. The United States, which provides the bulk of the force, has 2,500 troops left in Iraq—down from5,200 a year ago. They aremainly in charge of training, providing drone surveillance and carrying out air strikes while Iraqi security forces handle security in urban areas.—AFP