Site of a suicide attack in a central market in Baghdad
Members of Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a twin suicide attack at a central flee market in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 21, 2021.

CAIRO - Iraqi authorities say two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a used clothing market in Baghdad's Air Force Square, killing at least 35 people and wounding over 100.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, the first major such incidents in the Iraqi capital in the past 18 months.

After a suicide-bomber blew himself up at the market in Baghdad Thursday, a second bomber blew himself up as a crowd of bystanders gathered, causing further casualties.

Baghdad Security Operations Chief Gen. Tahseen al-Khafajy told state TV that the second bomber deliberately tried to draw a large crowd to the scene of the first explosion to cause a maximum number of casualties.

Al-Khafajy said that shortly after the first explosion, a second bomber began crying for help, causing a crowd of people to gather around him, at which point he detonated his explosive vest.

Iraqi armed forces spokesman Gen. Yehya Rassoul said the two suicide bombers "blew themselves up as military intelligence forces were closing in on them."

Iraqi analyst Fadel Abou Ragheef told Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV that he thinks IS has "broken up into a number of splinter groups, due to all the efforts that Iraqi security forces have put into tracking it down. So, it's no longer a cohesive group."

Iraqi lawmaker Ra'ed Dahlaki told Qatar's al Jazeera TV (Arabic) that "Iraq is very unstable, and it is not clear which outside force is trying to sow chaos inside the country.” Outside powers, he insists, "do not want Iraq to be stable."

Paul Sullivan, who is a professor at the Washington-based National Defense University, told VOA that "Iraq could take a long time to find solutions to its many sources of angst and antagonisms." He said the Islamic State could be behind the attacks, "along with a myriad of other small to large extremist groups [determined to] bring violence to the people of Iraq."

Then-Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller stated in December that Washington would bring down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 2,500, as of this month.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein told Arab media Thursday he believes his country "still needs help from outside advisers, including training, arms, and intelligence sharing, because [the Islamic State group] remains active in some areas, including Anbar province, Kirkuk, Mosul and Baghdad."

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