Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Khadhimi has fired security officials after 34 people were killed and over 50 others wounded, according to Iraqi media, in an explosion Monday night. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack which Iraqi security officials say was committed by a suicide bomber.

A crowd of mostly women shoppers ran for cover amid screaming and yelling, following the explosion at a crowded clothing market in Baghdad’s mostly Shi’ite Sadr City. It was the third such attack in Iraq this year. Another attack in Sadr City in January left around 30 dead.

A group of young men dressed in black loaded coffins onto vehicles in preparation for burial Tuesday morning. A middle-aged woman dressed in black bewailed some of the young victims of the explosion.

A young man with a yellow cap complained on social media that attacks on markets targeting civilians are all too common in Iraq before major religious holidays, like Eid al-Adha, which began Tuesday.

He said that this kind of thing always happens to us before elections and before the Eids. Most of the victims, he points out, were women and children.

Iraqi TV’s correspondent in Sadr City reported that the explosive vest worn by the suicide bomber contained nails and ball bearings to increase the number of victims, according to eyewitnesses.

Prime Minister Mustafa Khadhimi fired security officials responsible for the area in Sadr City where Monday’s explosion took place.

Hours before the blast, Khadhimi said in an interview he hoped Muqtada Sadr, a top Shi’ite political leader, many of whose followers live in Sadr City, would reverse his decision not to participate in the upcoming October parliamentary elections.

Khadhimi said that we must encourage Muqtada Sadr to reverse his decision not to participate in the elections. Other political forces were trying to make his group pay for its mistakes, but everyone in Iraq, Khadhimi insists, must be held responsible for his mistakes.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, tells VOA that internal political tensions between Prime Minister Khadhimi and various political groups could be behind the recent activities of Islamic State.

He questions whether under the banner of Islamic State, there aren’t in reality various Iraqi political forces that are battling Khadhimi, given that the centralized Islamic State group in its former incarnation no longer exists.

Abou Diab also points out that Khadhimi’s destitution of top security officials following the explosion indicates internal tensions within those forces, with some of those officials loyal to other political leaders.

Paul Sullivan, a Washington-based Middle East analyst, tells VOA that the “nightmarish attack on the market in Sadr City as people were shopping for the Eid has the hallmarks of [the Islamic State group],” and he thinks the attack was meant “to fuel the flames of sectarian strife in Iraq and split [the country].”

Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV reported that Islamic State has been active in blowing up electricity pylons, attacking Iraqi security forces and carrying out three suicide attacks since January.

 


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