BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi announces the arrest of a “terror cell” behind a Baghdad market bombing that killed dozens and was claimed by the Islamic State group.
The attack sparked revulsion and renewed fears about the reach of IS, which lost its last territory in Iraq after a grueling campaign that ended in late 2017, but retains sleeper cells in remote desert and mountain areas.
The bombing took place on Monday at Al-Woheilat market in Sadr City, a Shiite suburb in the capital, and officially killed 30 people, excluding the direct perpetrator.
“We have arrested all the members of the cowardly terrorist cell that planned and perpetrated the attack,” Kadhemi says on Twitter, “and they will be put before a judge today.”
The prime minister did not specify the number of people arrested, but a source at the interior ministry said the suspects were anticipated to make televised “confessions”, a common occurrence for major crimes in Iraq.
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 in a lightning 2014 offensive.
Iraq declared IS defeated in late 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign and attacks became relatively rare in the capital — until January this year when a twin IS-claimed suicide bombing killed 32 people in another market.
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.
But US troops have been targeted by powerful pro-Iran Iraqi armed factions, which want them to withdraw from the country entirely.
The US and Iran share enmity toward IS, but Tehran also sees Washington as its arch-nemesis.