On 19 July 2021, a blast from the belt of a suicide bomber ripped through the crowded Woheilat market in the Shiite district of Sadr City, Baghdad, killing 36 people and injuring at least 60 others. Iraqi authorities have not yet released official casualty figures, but medical sources told AFP that most of the dead and wounded were women and children. The bombing took place on the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice, leaving Iraqis in nationwide mourning during a time of would-be celebration.
Iraqi President Barham Salih said: “With an awful crime they target civilians in Sadr city on the eve of Eid … We will not rest before terrorism is cut off by its roots.” Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi said the “cowardly attack illustrates the failure of terrorists to regain a foothold after being defeated by our heroic security forces”. The incident happened just days before Kadhemi meets US President Joe Biden in Washington, and ahead of a scheduled parliamentary election in October this year.
This incident is the third attack by ISIS militants this year, 2021, to target civilians in densely populated commercial areas of Baghdad. It has sparked widespread fear about the growing reach of ISIS in Iraq, which lost it’s last territory in the country in late 2017 but retains sleeper cells in remote areas.
Last month, on 3 June 2021, an explosion at a busy restaurant in a protected Shiite shrine area of al-Kadhimiya, Bagdad, killed four civilians and injured 36 others. The blast was initially attributed to a leaking gas canister, but the following day ISIS claimed to have planted an IED and Iraqi authorities arrested nine suspects for orchestrating the attack.
Earlier this year in January, 32 civilians were killed and as many as 110 others wounded in twin suicide bombings by ISIS jihadists at the Bab al-Sharqi commercial area in central Baghdad. This attack was the first large scale suicide bombing to target civilians in Iraq in three years, marking the beginning of the most dangerous year to date for Iraqi civilians from explosive weapons since 2018.
In 2021 so far, AOAV has recorded 449 civilian casualties from explosive weapon use in Iraq, nearly double the number of civilian casualties recorded in all of 2020 (237). 66% (295) of the civilian casualties from explosive weapon use this year to date have been attributed to attacks by the Islamic State, though this number is likely to be higher, as attacks often go unclaimed by perpetrators.
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