Iraqis burn candles at the site of an explosion in a market in Sadr City, Baghdad’s predominantly Shiite neighbourhood.
On Tuesday, Iraq mourned the deaths of at least 36 people who were killed when a bomb blasted through a packed Baghdad market in a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group’s fighters.
The bloody carnage Monday evening, one of the deadliest attacks in years in the war-scarred country, killed mostly women and children on the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice.
The Sunni Muslim extremists claimed on the Telegram messenger service that an IS suicide bomber had detonated an explosives belt in the bustling Woheilat market of Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City.
Iraqi President Barham Salih condemned the “heinous crime of unprecedented cruelty on the eve of Eid,” writing on Twitter that the perpetrators “do not allow people to rejoice, even for a moment”.
No official death toll has yet been released by Iraqi authorities, but medical sources told AFP that at least 36 people were killed and about 60 wounded.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi said the “cowardly attack illustrates the failure of terrorists to regain a foothold after being defeated by our heroic security forces” and vowed that “terrorism will not go unpunished”.
“This is a clear message that IS is still present and is able to strike targets in Baghdad,” said Osama al-Saidi, head of the Iraqi Political Science Association.
Deadly attacks were common in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003, and later on as IS swept across much of Iraq.
The US-led coalition that supported Iraq’s campaign against IS has significantly drawn down its troop levels over the past year, citing the increased capabilities of Iraqi forces.
US forces have come under repeated attack from Shiite paramilitary groups, integrated into the Iraq security apparatus, that support neighbouring Iran, the arch enemy of the United States.
The latest attack sparked condolences from abroad, and recriminations among Iraqi political leaders.
Iran’s foreign ministry also condemned the “barbaric act”.
Lawmaker Adnan Al-Zurfi accused commanders of the Falcon Cell counter-terrorism unit of having turned from “intelligence gathering to politics”.
Many ordinary Iraqis meanwhile shared their grief, exhaustion and sense of helplessness in a country that has endured decades of war and insurgency, as well as an ongoing deep economic and political crisis.