iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — A pair of suicide bombers shattered three months of relative calm in Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday, killing more than two dozen people and apparently signaling that the Islamic State has not been completely uprooted from Iraq.
The twin bombings erupted around sunrise in busy Tayran Square, in the heart of the country’s capital. Witnesses said the bombers, wearing explosive belts, appeared to target day laborers and shopkeepers gathered in the square to begin work.
Brig. Gen. Saad Maan of the Interior Ministry released a statement confirming that at least 27 people were killed in the attack. He said another 90 people were wounded, but a Health Ministry spokesman put the number of injured at 102.
While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, they bore the hallmarks of Islamic State terrorism.
One witness, Jawad Al-Zaidi of Nasiriyah, about 110 miles south of Baghdad, told ABC News that two of his cousins were killed in the bombings, the first coming about 6 a.m., followed a short time later by the second deadly blast.
Al-Zaidi said his cousins, both 25-year-old married fathers, were also from the Nasiriyah area. He said his cousins were day laborers.
“Who is going to look after those poor children?” Al-Zaidi said of his cousins’ offspring.
He said the two suicide bombers simply walked into the crowd of people and detonated their explosive belts without warning. Within minutes, sirens sounded across the city as ambulances raced to the area from all directions and medics began treating bloodied and maimed victims strewn throughout the open-air market.
The attack came about a month after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the leader of Iraq’s Shiite majority, declared victory over the Islamic State, which overran the country in 2014 and took over large territories.
“Our battle was with the enemy that wanted to kill our civilization, but we have won with our unity and determination,” al-Abadi said at the time.
Following the suicide bombings, al-Abadi met with security officials overseeing Baghdad. His office issued a statement saying the prime minister ordered security to be boosted and for military forces to focus on hunting down and eliminating militant sleeper cells in the country.
On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a security checkpoint near the northern edge of Baghdad, injuring at least 10 people. The last surprise attack within Baghdad was a car bombing on Sept. 27 that killed two people and injured four. Two other car bombings on May 5, one at a central Baghdad ice cream shop, killed 26 people.
There was no immediate word if Monday’s bombing will delay national elections scheduled for May. The attacks occurred just two days after al-Abadi said he plans to lead a “cross-sectarian” list in national elections.
Sunni leaders have called for the elections to be postponed to allow the more than 3 million people displaced by fighting to return to their homes.
Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.