BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Daesh has claimed responsibility for a deadly terrorist attack in Baghdad, making the announcement early on Friday via the takfiri group’s Amaq news agency on its Telegram channel.
Two men blew themselves up in a crowded Baghdad market on Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding 110, in Iraq’s first big terrorist bombing since 2018, authorities said.
Officials described it as a possible sign of the reactivation of the group. It came after recent reports said the U.S. military had transferred Daesh prisoners to the Iraqi-Syrian border.
American forces used helicopters to relocate the Daesh inmates from prisons in Hasakah province in northeast Syria to the Iraqi border, Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen TV quoted local sources as saying last week.
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 then flocked to the scene to help the victims, a second suicide bomber set off his explosives.
The open-air market in the Bab al-Sharqi area of the capital, where second-hand clothes are sold at stalls, had been teeming with people after the lifting of nearly a year of Covid-19 restrictions across the country.
Following the Daesh claim of responsibility, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said on Twitter: "Our people have proven their resolve in the face of Daesh’s terrorism. The will to live among our people as they face terrorism in the scene of the heinous crime at Bab al-Sharqi was a message of defiance and unparalleled courage.
"Our response to those who shed innocent Iraqi blood will be bold and earth-shattering, and the evil leaders of Daesh will face a force to be reckoned with.”
Such violence was commonplace in Baghdad during the bloodletting that followed the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 and later on as Daesh swept across much of Iraq and also targeted the capital.
But with the group’s territorial defeat in late 2017, terrorist bombings in the city became rare.
Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a tweet: "The twin terrorist bombings against the safe people of Baghdad at this time confirm the attempts and endeavors by dark groups to target the national needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people for a peaceful future.
"We stand firmly against these rogue attempts to shake our country’s stability.”
Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah resistance group blamed Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and the occupying regime of Israel for the bombings, warning Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman that he will pay the price for backing such plots.
In a statement, the Iraqi group described the U.S., the Zionist regime, and Saudi Arabia as the "axis of evil”.
"The Zionist, American, and Saudi evil bands have restarted their filthy criminal acts against the children of the Iraqi nation by committing an ugly crime, which targeted a marketplace full of poor Iraqis,” the statement said.
The group referred to the coincidence of the explosions and the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden as a sign of the plot by the "axis of evil” to bring to their knees the Iraqi people who insist on the expulsion of U.S.-led foreign forces.
"We once again highlight what we earlier said about bin Salman’s decision and his intention to support brutal operations in Iraq. We had earlier warned him not to play with the lion’s tail, as this fire will engulf his kingdom of evil and bring him down.”
However, bin Salman has not only refused to stop these crimes despite the warnings, but he has committed more crimes against innocent people, it said. "Therefore, he will pay the price for his decision.”
The attack comes as Iraqis prepare for an election, events often preceded by bombings and assassinations. The 2018 attack took place just a few months before Iraq’s last round of parliamentary elections.
Iraq’s prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a statement, slamming "ruthless terrorists” for targeting "innocent civilians” in a horrendous scene "that shocks every conscientious human.”
Ayatollah Sistani offered his condolences to families of the victims, urging Iraq’s security forces to intensify their efforts to maintain the country’s security and thwart plots hatched by the enemies.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said the bombings after a period of relative calm in Iraq are suspicious, especially at a time when the Iraqi people and officials are demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. forces.
"The best answer to this vicious crime should be increased awareness of Iraqi people and their commitment to freedom and independence of their country,” Hezbollah said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif wrote, "From terrorist bombings in Baghdad to [Zionist PM Benjamin] Netanyahu’s boot-licking—albeit a new boot—all have but one objective: trap another POTUS (President of the United States) into spending U.S. blood & treasure to ‘confront’ Iran.”