"We found the mobiles used to detonate the women," he said, referring to the remote detonated devices that were used in the attack.
Major-General Qasim Ata, spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, said that "both women were mentally impaired. They were wearing belts containing 15kg of explosives."
|"Terrorists are aiming to prevent normal life from coming back to Baghdad, and turn it back to the pre-surge period" |
Iraqi prime minister
An official at Baghdad's al-Kindi hospital said in the wake of the blasts: "We have a disaster here. There are too many bodies to count. Many of them are just pieces of flesh."
On Saturday, dozens of covered bodies lay in an alley outside a nearby hospital mortuary as relatives gathered to take them to cemeteries.
Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, said in a statement: "Terrorists are aiming to prevent normal life from coming back to Baghdad, and turn it back to the pre-surge period."
Al-Ghazl market has been struck several times since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and had only recently begun to recover as a popular venue amid tightened security.
A bomb attack in November at al-Ghazl killed at least 13 people, with the US military blaming it on Iranian-backed Shia fighters.
Hoda Abdel Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Baghdad, said that the US and the Iraqi government were facing one of their sternest tests yet.
"There is so much security on the streets [of Baghdad]. Every single neighbourhood is guarded by blast walls. There has been practically a vehicle ban and curfew here for the past two years.
"As they lift these very stringent security measures, the attacks come back, in the soft spots of the town."
|Al-Ghazl market has been the target of several |
bomb attacks in recent months [AFP]
Abdel Hamid said that an increasing poroprtion of suicide bomb attackers were women, especially in Baghdad and in the province of Diyala, which lies northeast of the capital.
"One of the reasons for that is because it is mainly men who get thoroughly checked when they enter crowded areas - whether it is a market or buildings," she said.
Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, said the bombings showed that al-Qaida had "found a different, deadly way" to destabilise Iraq.
"There is nothing they won't do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that," he said.
Friday's attacks come as Iraqi officials reported that civilian deaths across Iraq in January fell to their lowest level in nearly two years.
Combined figures obtained from the defence, interior and health ministries showed that a total of 541 Iraqis were killed in January, compared to 887 in October.
US military commanders say attacks of all types are down to levels not seen since before February 2006.