32 killed, 110 wounded in double suicide bomb attack in central Baghdad: health ministry

Hit market near al-Tayaran Square
Aftermath of a double suicide bombing in Baghdad's al-Tayaran Square on January 21, 2021 (NRT Digital Media/Screenshot)

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SULAIMANI — Iraq's Ministry of Health said on Thursday (January 21) that 32 people were killed and dozens of others were wounded in a rare suicide bomb attack in central Baghdad.

Baghdad Operations Commander Brigadier General Hazem al-Azzawi told the state-run Iraqi News Agency (INA) that there were two explosions, which occurred close together in an open-air market near al-Tayaran Square in the Bab al-Sharqi neighborhood.

The Ministry of Health later reported that 32 people were killed and at least 110 others were wounded.

Gruesome photos and videos circulating on social media showed bodies lying on the ground in the aftermath. One video captured one of the blasts going off in the center of a large crowd of people.

According to AFP, the interior ministry said the first suicide bomber had rushed into the market and claimed to feel sick, so that people would gather around him. He then detonated his explosives.

As people tried to help the victims of the first blast, a second attacker detonated his bomb, the ministry's statement said.

The wounded were taken to Yarmouk Teaching Hospital, Shaikh Zayed Hospital, and Medical City Teaching Hospital.

One of the victims who was killed, Ghazi Hazm, was from Duhok’s Rizgari neighborhood.

His family told NRT that he was born in 1974 and worked a trader for the last twenty years, taking goods from the Kurdistan Region to cities in central and northern Iraq, including Baghdad.

An interior ministry official told NRT that they have taken “strict security measures” acting on intelligence to prevent further incidents.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on Islamic State (ISIS) because of similarities with past bombings.

On January 15, 2018, two suicide bombers killed 35 people and wounded 90 in an attack on the same square, which is a place where day laborers gather in the morning looking for work.

Once common in the Iraqi capital, suicide bomb attacks have become rare in recent years, particularly since ISIS' ouster from the country's urban areas by the end of 2017.

Iraqi President Barham Salih led condemnations of the bombings and condolences to the victims, saying the attack confirms that “dark groups endeavor to target national interests and the aspirations of our people for a peaceful future.”

“We stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilize our country,” he added.

Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesperson for the US-led International Coalition, sent his condolences to the victims and said the attack was “yet another instance of terrorists killing fellow Iraqis and harms those who seek peace.”

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), the US Embassy in Baghdad, and other diplomats and foreign ministries also condemned the attack.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and other officials and party leaders from the Kurdistan Region also expressed their sorrow at news of the bombing.

“I convey my sympathy to the victims and their families and wish them strength in this difficult time,” Barzani said in a tweet.

“The KRG stands ready to help provide care and assistance.”

New Generation Movement President Shaswar Abdulwahid called the bombing a “cowardly terrorist act that affected innocent citizens.”

“We call on the government to find the criminals and the parties behind it and not allow the return of fear and panic,” he added.

Pope Francis, who is set to visit Iraq in March, also denounced the attack.

“In deploring this senseless act of brutality, he prays for the deceased victims and their families, for the injured and for the emergency personnel in attendance,” the Vatican said in a statement sent to Iraqi President Salih in the pope's name.

(NRT Digital Media/AFP)

This story was updated at 7:59 p.m. EBL