On Monday, January 15th, according to Iraqi health and police officials, 38 people were killed and approximately 120 others were injured in twin suicide blasts in Baghdad. The attacks were the deadliest since Iraqi security forces claimed victory over the Islamic State (otherwise known as Daesh) last month, coming on the heels of this weekend’s assault near a security checkpoint that killed at least five people in northern Baghdad.
The twin explosions took place in Tayaran Square after two suicide bombers detonated themselves in the crowd. The attacks took place during rush hour, while labourers were gathering for work. News sources reported that there were photographs immediately uploaded to social media by witnesses, showing lifeless bodies, strewn clothing and body pieces scattered all over the bloody streets. Since 2011, 180 people have been killed in suicide bombings in the Square, however, the violence has subsided substantially after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s security forces chased IS militants out of the area last year. As such, Monday’s assault came as a shock even though analysts have warned that IS, who has yet to take credit for either the Monday or Saturday attacks, would increasingly turn to these tactics as they have been forced underground. In efforts to secure the area immediately after the bombings, the prime minister has ordered security forces to ‘‘root out militant sleeper cells.’’ According to reports, the war against IS has devastated almost a third of the country, with neighbourhoods in many towns and cities completely destroyed.
The attacks also come close to the May elections, and several residents indicated to news sources that it is the Islamic State’s lingering presence in the area, combined with infighting and factionalism amongst politicians and security forces, which led to Monday’s security breakdown. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who many have been credited with vanquishing the IS, rose to power in Iraq after former PM Nouri al-Maliki stepped down in 2014 amidst the IS’ seizure of the northern part of the country. Many had attributed al-Maliki’s sectarian policies, which alienated the Sunni minority, as a contribution to the initial rise of IS in the area. News sources are speculating that the recent attacks could undermine al-Abadi’s claims to have vanquished the IS and create space for the former PM to come back into power. These events have sparked many Sunni leaders to postpone the election until some of the 3 million people who have been displaced by fights have been able to return home.