BAGHDAD – Two suicide bombers detonated explosive vests at a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing at least 15 people in the first such attack in years, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
“The first suicide bomber exploded after pretending to be ill to gather people around him,” said Major General Khalid al Muhanna, a ministry spokesman. He said the bomber fell to the ground and then detonated his vest after people rushed to his aid. Another bomber detonated his explosives nearby minutes later.
The interior ministry said at least 15 people had been confirmed dead and at least 28 wounded, although the health ministry reported a higher toll.
A health ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said at least 25 were dead and 72 injured.
General Muhanna said authorities suspected the attackers were linked to the Islamic State terrorist group or its offshoot, although no group immediately claimed responsibility.
The Iraqi and American governments declared ISIS a great defeat in Iraq. The United States is withdrawing most of its troops from the country, saying Iraq is now capable of fighting ISIS on its own.
Although Iraqi officials pointed to ISIS as the most likely culprit for the bombings, passersby at the site worried that political tensions were rising ahead of the October elections. Voting has been postponed since June after election authorities said they would not be ready in time.
At the scene, Iraqi workers and vendors gathered around piles of blood-spattered shoes and sweatshirts.
“It’s because of the choice – they’re fighting for positions,” said Hussein Nahi, a porter who was driving goods in a wooden cart when his first bomber detonated an explosive. “It’s because of disputes between politicians, because whenever elections are near, we pay the price.”
Falih Hassan contributed to the reporting.