Deadly violence erupts in southern Nasiriya city amid protests that began over the arrest of activists.
At least 32 people have been killed and 110 wounded in a rare twin suicide bombing that tore through a busy area of central Baghdad on Thursday morning, Iraqi officials said.
Ministry of Defence Spokesperson Yahya Rasool told Al Jazeera one of the two perpetrators lured a crowd of people towards him in a market in the central Tayaran Square by feigning illness, only to detonate his explosives.
The second bomber struck as people helped victims of the first attack, Rasool said.
The attack is the first twin bombing in Baghdad since January 2018, when 35 people were killed and 90 injured in the same square that was targeted on Thursday.
Videos from Thursday’s attack show scenes of chaos, with people running for cover and bodies strewn across pavements and the road.
The health ministry said the capital’s hospitals were being mobilised to treat the wounded. While officials suggested the death toll is likely to rise as many of those injured in the attack are in critical condition.
No one immediately took responsibility for the attack.
But Sajad Jiyad, an Iraq analyst and fellow at The Century Foundation think-tank, told Al Jazeera: “This kind of attack bears the hallmark of ISIS [ISIL] who have targeted crowded civilian areas in Baghdad with suicide attacks many times in the past.”
“This shows a security failure by the government who have been warned that ISIS is still active and in recent days have seen it target infrastructure and rural areas with similar attacks,” said Jiyad.
“For Iraqis, this is a worrying development which saps confidence in the security forces and adds to the level of tension already present with geopolitical, economic and pandemic issues,” he said.
Iraq declared ISIL defeated at the end of 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign.
But ISIL attacks across the country have been on the rise again over the past year, particularly in northern Iraq where sleeper cells are still active.
By Thursday afternoon the area surrounding the market had come back to life. But some stalls near the blasts remained shut and a small crowd of people had gathered to examine the wreckage.
Dry blood was still visible on the tarmac, while the charred remains of toys and clothes once sold by vendors littered the floor.
The Kurdistan Region Government Head of Foreign Relations Safeen Dizaye condemned Thursday’s attack.
“This horrific crime is a sad reminder that terror is still a real threat to peace and stability in the world. [The international] community must stand united against all acts of terrorism,” Dizaye wrote in a tweet.
The United States embassy in Iraq also strongly condemned the attack in a statement.
“This attack is a reprehensible act of cowardice that underscores the dangers of terrorism that millions of Iraqis continue to face. We extend our condolences to the families of these victims, and hope for the swift recovery for those who were injured,” it said.