The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for a twin suicide bombing that killed 32 people and wounded 110 at a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday.
It was the deadliest attack on the city in three years, when another suicide bomber targeted the same area.
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.
As more people flocked to the scene to help the victims, a second suicide bomber set off his explosives.
The open-air market, where secondhand clothes are sold at stalls, had been teeming with people after the lifting of nearly a year of COVID-19 restrictions across the country.
A news photographer at the scene said that security forces cordoned off the area, where blood-soaked clothes were strewn across the muddy streets and paramedics were rushing to take away the casualties.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health said that those who lost their lives died at the scene, and that most of the wounded were treated and released from hospital.
After midnight, IS posted a claim of responsibility for the attack on its online propaganda channels.
Such violence was commonplace in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003 and later on, as IS swept across much of Iraq and also targeted the capital.
However, 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 were removed.
Iraqi President Barham Salih led political figures in condemning Thursday’s attack, saying that the government would “stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilize our country.”
Pope Francis, who hopes to visit Iraq in March, deplored the “senseless act of brutality.”
The US, the UN and the EU strongly condemned the attack.
US Acting Secretary of State Daniel Smith said that the bombings “were vicious acts of mass murder and a sobering reminder of the terrorism that continues to threaten the lives of innocent Iraqis.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged “the people of Iraq to reject any attempts to spread fear and violence aimed at undermining peace, stability and unity.”
The UN mission in Iraq offered condolences to the numerous victims, saying: “Such a despicable act will not weaken Iraq’s march toward stability and prosperity.”
Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that his government was ready to assist Iraq “in the struggle against terrorism and extremism.”
The attack was meant “to disrupt the peace and stability of Iraq and to provide a pretext for foreigners to maintain their presence there,” he said.
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