A double suicide bombing has killed some 30 people in central Baghdad where day labourers usually gather to seek work. Iraq is readying for elections in May amid voter alarm over security.
Two suicide bombers detonated explosive vests at Baghdad’s busy Tayran Square at rush hour on Monday, killing at least 31 people and wounding more than 60 others.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi referred to “IS sleeper cells,” whom he said must be “eliminated.”
The bombings came two days after a suicide bomber had struck a police checkpoint in northern Baghdad, killing eight people.
In December, al-Abadi declared victory over Islamic State (IS), the militia evicted last year from Mosul and other swathes of northern and western Iraq.
Monday’s attack shocked Baghdad residents after a decline in such violence for months. Analysts had warned, however, that IS would turn to such tactics as the elections—due in May—approach.
The insurgents aimed to “create chaos and exacerbate sectarian divisions,” said Iraqi analyst Hisham al-Hashemi.
Survivor Munthir Falah, a vendor of second-hand clothes and father of three, blamed government forces for not doing enough to secure the capital and its residents.
“They think that Daesh (the Arabic acronym for IS) is done with the territorial losses and they [government security forces] do not bother themselves to exert efforts to secure Baghdad,” he said.
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri denounced the attack as a “cowardly act against innocent people” and called on the government to take all necessary security measures.
Last September, al-Abadi announced the “end of the war” against the IS militant group, saying that Iraqi security forces regained control of the border with Syria.
“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh,” Abadi said during a press conference in Baghdad.
“Our enemy wanted to kill our civilisation, but we have won through our unity and our determination. We have triumphed in little time,” he said.
“Iraq’s flag is today fluttering all over the Iraqi lands and atop the farthest border outpost,” Abadi said in a televised address to the nation.
Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, a senior Iraqi military commander, issued a similar statement, saying the country’s military had liberated “all Iraqi lands.”