*Trigger warning: Violent scenes described below*
As the USA celebrates a new era with the inauguration of its new president Joe Biden, Iraqis on the other side of the world experienced a deadly attack today. Twin suicide bombings in central Baghdad happened in a market this morning. This attack is outrageous for many reasons. The first suicide bomber came into the market and pretended to be sick asking for help. As people gathered around him to try to help him, he set off the explosion. As people gathered after that to help with the explosion aftermath, the second suicide bomber came in with a motorcycle and set off the second bomb. This was a well planned malicious attack which resulted in the killing of at least 32 people and injuring more than 110 people. This is the first suicide attack Iraqis have experienced in about two years, with the last one that happened being in January 2018 killing 35 people in the same Tayaran square. The incident today will shake the sense of security Iraqis have slowly developed, especially after a year of limited movement in the city due to coronavirus related restrictions and curfews.
No group has yet announced its responsibility for the attack, although history points towards the jahadi groups who have done many similar attacks in the past in Iraq, specifically twin bombings. This kind of attack has become a rare occurrence since the defeat of Islamic State (IS) by the Iraqi forces backed up with international help. IS at the time seized under 100,000 km2 from Eastern Iraq and Western Syria, forcing its violent ruling on almost 8 million people there. However, the UN secretary general released a report in August 2020 stating that there remains more than ten thousand active IS fighters in Iraq and Syria. Another important thing to note is even though Iraq has experienced a drastic decrease in violence over the past few years, there remains a prominent presence of armed jihadi groups and militias in the country.
Many have spoken out against this horrific incident today, condemning it, and hoping for a better safer future for Iraqis. The Iraqi government, led by prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, are holding emergency meetings with security forces and operations command headquaters around these suicide bombings in central Baghdad today. Iraqis are also wondering whether the government and security forces have experienced a laxed attitude towards the safety of its citizens considering the declining level of violence in the past few years.
الانفجاران الارهابيان ضد المواطنين الآمنين في بغداد، وفي هذا التوقيت، يؤكد سعي الجماعات الظلامية لاستهداف الاستحقاقات الوطنية الكبيرة؛ وتطلعات شعبنا في مستقبل يسوده السلام. نقف بحزم ضد هذه المحاولات المارقة لزعزعة استقرار بلدنا.— Barham Salih (@BarhamSalih) January 21, 2021
نسأل الله ان يتغمد الضحايا برحمته وأن يشفي الجرحى.
Iraqi president Barham Salih tweeting: “The two terrorist explosions against the safe citizens of Baghdad, at this time, confirms the endeavour of dark groups to target the great national needs; And the aspirations of our people for a peaceful future. We stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilize our country. We ask God to provide mercy to the victims and to heal the wounded.”
This incident also comes precedent to a planned trip for Pope Francis to Iraq this coming March. This trip involves him visiting important biblical sites in Iraq including cities like Nineveh and Ur. The Pope sent a message to the Iraqi president condemning the attack: “deploring this senseless act of brutality”.
The reasoning behind the explosion remains unknown, but the attack came only a few days after the Iraqi government announced it’s postponing the early general election from June to October 2021, to give more time for electoral authorities to register new parties and voters. Dr. Ali Al-Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission of Human Rights, said that this is an indicator of the return of terrorism to Iraq, and weakness of security institutions. Let’s hope this is not an early start to the high level of violence Iraq experiences surrounding its election times.
تفجير ساحة الطيران مؤشر لعودة الإرهاب من جديد باستهداف مركز العاصمة بعد أن كان يستهدف المناطق النائية والهشة أمنيا وهو بكل تأكيد مؤشر ضعف المؤسسات الأمنية من جديد.— Dr. Ali Al Bayati (@aliakramalbayat) January 21, 2021
Dr. Ali Al-Bayati tweeting: The bombing of the Tayaran Square is an indication of the resurgence of terrorism, targeting the centre of the capital after it was targeting remote and vulnerable areas for security, and it is certainly an indication of the weakness of the security institutions again.
*UPDATE: IS confirmed it being the group behind the suicide attack*