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Iraq: Market bomb attack kills 36, including children

July 20, 2021

The bomb ripped through a crowded market in a Shiite majority city that has come under increasing attack. The "Islamic State" militant group claimed responsibility for the attack on the eve of Eid holiday celebrations.

People and security forces inspect the damage after bomb attack in a market, Sadr City
Bomb attacks have been on the rise in Sadr CityImage: Khalid Mohammed/AP/picture alliance

The "Islamic State" (IS) group  claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Monday evening that killed at least 36 people and injured 60 more in a crowded eastern Baghdad market.

The attack in Iraq by the Sunni militant group came on the eve of Eid al-Adha holiday celebrations in Sadr City, a Shiite majority neighborhood that has been bombed by IS in at least two other instances this year.

'Hateful and cowardly terrorism'

Iraqi President Barham Salih mourned the victims and called the bombing a "heinous crime."

"They are targeting our civilians in Sadr City on the eve of Eid," Salih tweeted, saying the militants "do not allow people to rejoice, even for a moment."

IS said a suicide bomber it identified as Abu Hamza al-Iraqi carried out the attack.

Although the Islamic State lost control of the northern Iraqi territory it controlled in 2017 after around three years of combat, sleeper cells and IS fighters are still very much active in the restless country.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi held an urgent meeting with top security and military commanders to discuss the attack.

Horror and disbelief

Iraqis had gathered in the busy market to shop ahead of the Muslim festival of sacrifice.

Security forces and people comb through wreckage after a bomb detonated in a market in Sadr City
Security forces comb through wreckage in Wahailat market, Sadr CityImage: Khalid Mohammed/AP/picture alliance

The victims were mainly women and included seven children.

Young doctor Ali Faisal told AFP many of the casualities were "dead on arrival" with the wounded suffering burns and fractures. 

"I myself declared the time of death for two children, a six-year-old and an eight-year-old," he told AFP. "A four-month-old baby was also killed."

"This horrible attack right before Eid Al-Adha is a terrible reminder of the violence Iraqi children continue to face," UNICEF said in a statement.

International outrage

The US State department condemned the Iraq terrorist attack "in the strongest terms."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the bombing was "shocking in its cruelty and cynicism and called for the terrorists to "receive the punishment they deserve."

"We are deeply saddened by the brutal and senseless terrorist attack in Baghdad on the eve of Eid al-Adha," tweeted the German Embassy in Iraq. 

"Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and with those injured."

Foreign ministers of neighboring Iran and Turkey respectively called the bombing a "barbaric act" and "heinous terror attack."

Rise in bomb attacks in Sadr City

This was not the first time a bomb went off in busy areas of Sadr City. In June, a bomb placed under a kiosk in another market in the neighborhood wounded people. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

In April, a car bomb attack in the city, claimed by IS, killed four people and injured at least 20.

At the beginning of the year, IS claimed responsibility fora bomb attack that killed more than 30 people in a centrally located market in Baghdad. That marked Iraq's first big suicide bombing in three years.

Even though large bomb attacks were once a daily occurrence in the Iraqi capital, the number of incidents has dwindled in recent years.

The latest attack comes a little more than two months ahead of federal elections that are slated for October 10.

rm, jc/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)