BAGHDAD -- The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for a twin suicide bombing that killed 32 people and wounded 110 at a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday (January 21).
It was the deadliest attack on the city in three years, when another suicide bomber targeted the same area.
The first attacker drew a crowd at the market in al-Tayaran Square by claiming to feel sick, then detonated his explosives belt, the interior ministry said.
As more people then flocked to the scene to help the victims, a second suicide bomber set off his explosives.
After midnight, ISIS posted a claim of responsibility for the attack on its online propaganda channels.
The open-air market, where second-hand clothes are sold and day labourers usually gather, had been teeming with people after the lifting of nearly a year of COVID-19 restrictions across the country.
Clusters of young men had gathered there, desperate for a day's wages as Iraq struggles through its most dire fiscal downturn in years.
Many of them remain unaccounted for.
'Senseless and barbaric'
Iraqi President Barham Saleh led political figures in condemning the attack, saying the government would "stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilise our country".
The US, the UN and the EU strongly condemned the attack.
US acting secretary of state Daniel Smith said the bombings "were vicious acts of mass murder and a sobering reminder of the terrorism that continues to threaten the lives of innocent Iraqis".
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an appeal "to the people of Iraq to reject any attempts to spread fear and violence aimed at undermining peace, stability and unity".
The EU called the attack "senseless and barbaric" and reiterated its "full support to the Iraqi authorities in the fight against extremism and terrorism".
Pope Francis, who hopes to visit Iraq in March, deplored the "senseless act of brutality".
ISIS seized a third of Iraq in 2014 and was dangerously close to the capital, but a ferocious three-year fight by Iraqi troops pushed them back.
But sleeper cells have continued to operate in desert and mountain areas, typically targeting security forces or state infrastructure with low casualty attacks.
The strikingly similar January 15, 2018 suicide attack in al-Tayaran Square, carried out by two bombers, killed 31 people and injured close to 100 others, including many construction workers.
At the time it raised concerns that ISIS cells were present in the city and had "exploited a loophole in security defences".
Yesterday's attack comes as Iraqis prepare for an election, events often preceded by bombings and assassinations.
The 2018 attack took place just a few months before Iraq's last round of parliamentary elections.