21 killed, 33 injured in Iraq market blast

Published July 20, 2021
Iraqis inspect the site of the explosion in a popular market in Sadr City, east of Baghdad, on Monday.—AFP
Iraqis inspect the site of the explosion in a popular market in Sadr City, east of Baghdad, on Monday.—AFP

BAGHDAD: At least 21 people were killed and 33 wounded on Monday in a bomb blast in a busy market in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a medical source said.

The blast in the densely populated majority-Shia suburb of Sadr City came as shoppers crowded the market buying food ahead of Eidul Azha.

Video footage shared on social media after the blast showed bloodied victims and people screaming in terror.

An interior ministry source said four women and four children were among those killed.

“A terror attack using a locally-made IED (improvised explosive device) in Woheilat Market in Sadr City, in east Baghdad, left several victims dead and others injured,” Iraq’s interior ministry said in a statement. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Baghdad Operations Command, a joint military and interior ministry security body, said it had launched an investigation into the blast.

In January, the militant Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a rare twin suicide bombing that killed 32 people — also at a crowded market in Baghdad.

That blast was the city’s deadliest attack in three years. 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.

But after years of deadly violence, militant attacks have become relatively rare in the capital Baghdad.

Iraq declared IS defeated at the end of 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign.

Yet the group’s sleeper cells have continued to operate in desert and mountain areas, typically targeting security forces or state infrastructure with low casualty attacks.

The US-led coalition that had been supporting Iraq’s campaign against IS has significantly drawn down its troop levels over the past year, citing the increased capabilities of Iraqi forces. The United States, which provides the bulk of the force, has 2,500 troops left in Iraq — down from 5,200 a year ago.

They are mainly in charge of training, providing drone surveillance and carrying out air strikes while Iraqi security forces handle security in urban areas.

Sadr City, where Monday’s bomb blast took place, is named after revered Shiite cleric Mohammed al-Sadr.

His son, Moqtada Sadr — a firebrand cleric with millions of followers and in command of paramilitary groups — is a crucial player in Iraqi politics who has often protested against the influence of both the United States and Iran.

The boycott by Sadr of upcoming elections slated for October is a blow to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who had called the early vote in response to demands by pro-democracy activists.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021

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