Rare twin suicide attack kills at least 28 in Baghdad

Iraqi security forces keep guard the site of a suicide attack in Baghdad, Iraq January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State militants could have launched a twin suicide bombing that killed at least 28 people in a Baghdad market on Thursday, the first such attack in years, Iraq's civil defence chief said.

The Iraqi military said two attackers wearing explosive vests had blown themselves up among shoppers at a crowded market in Tayaran Square in central Baghdad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"Daesh terrorist groups might be standing behind the attacks," Civil Defence chief Major General Kadhim Salman told reporters, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The hardline Sunni Muslim group captured vast areas of Iraq and imposed its own rule before being defeated in 2017 by Iraqi forces backed with U.S. air power.

Speaking at the scene of the bombings, Salman said the death toll had risen to 28 from 23 initially reported, with 73 more people wounded.

Police sources said Iraqi security forces had been deployed and key roads blocked to prevent possible further attacks.

Suicide bombings were once common in Baghdad but have been rare in the Iraqi capital since Islamic State was driven out. The last deadly suicide blast in the city, also at Tayaran Square, killed at least 27 people in January 2018.

Reuters cameramen saw pools of blood at the scene shortly after the blast.

"The attacker was standing in the middle of a crowd and pretended to be sick, and then blew himself up and tore people to pieces," said a street vendor who had been standing nearby.

A video taken from a rooftop and circulated on social media purported to show the second blast scattering people gathered in the area. Images shared online showed several people apparently dead or wounded.

Reuters could not independently verify those images.

Militants from Islamic State remain in Iraq, waging an insurgency against Iraqi forces and attacking local officials in northern areas. Government and military officials do not now consider the group able to take over significant territory but say it will continue to wage attacks that threaten Iraq's stability and security.

Iraqi forces continue to fight remaining Islamic State militants and are working to secure the border with Syria across which the group has often moved personnel.

(Reporting by Baghdad newsroom; Writing by Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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