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Suicide attacks kill 23 people at Baghdad market

BAGHDAD: Suicide bombs at two marketplaces in Baghdad, one of them claimed by Daesh, killed at least 23 people on Sunday, police and medics said, the latest in a spate of militant attacks in the Iraqi capital that have left dozens dead.
“A soldier at the gate of Jamila market opened fire on a suicide car bomb after noticing a suspect vehicle but the terrorist blew up his car,” Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said.
In the first blast, the attacker drove an explosives-rigged car into a large vegetable market in the district of Jamila, and detonated it after security forces opened fire to try to stop the vehicle, police sources said.
A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest blew himself up a few hours later at a market in the Baladiyat district.
Daesh claimed carrying out the first attack in an online statement. A series of attacks in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities have killed more than 80 people in just over a week.
Several have been claimed by the Daesh, which is coming under increasing pressure from a US-backed offensive in Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq.
Iraqi forces have pushed Daesh out of much of the territory it once held, but this bombing and the many others that have preceded it highlight the danger the militants can pose to civilians even as they lose ground.
Iraqi forces advanced to within several hundred meters of the Tigris river than runs through Mosul on Saturday, as their operation against the militants gathers pace.
Daesh is likely to resort to bomb attacks and similar tactics elsewhere in Iraq as it is driven out of its Mosul stronghold.
Jamila is the main wholesale vegetable market in Baghdad and lies in Sadr City.
Salam Khalaf, the spokesman for a hospital in Sadr City, said that it received a headless body of a person killed in the Jamila attack who was apparently meant to be a second suicide bomber.
While a hospital employee was searching for the man’s identity card, he accidentally detonated a small explosive charge the man was carrying, blowing off a mortuary door but leaving him unharmed, Khalaf said.
The dead man was wearing an explosive belt but it did not go off, he added.
The police colonel also confirmed that the body of a person taken from the scene of the market attack later exploded at the mortuary.
Daesh issued an online statement claiming the market attack, using a nom de guerre indicating the bomber was Iraqi and saying that he targeted members of Iraq’s Shiite majority, whom the militants consider heretics.
Daesh claimed an attack on Jan. 2 — also in Sadr City — when a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle packed with explosives among a crowd of day laborers waiting for work, killing 35 people.
The militants overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in a swift 2014 offensive that swept through security forces unprepared for the assault.
The number of bombings in the capital declined following the June 2014 offensive, apparently because the militants were occupied with holding territory they seized and later defending against government attacks.
Federal forces and units from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region have since pushed Daesh back in a series of battles over a period of more than two years.
On Oct. 17, Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to recapture Mosul, the country’s last city in which Daesh still holds significant ground.
Iraqi forces punched into the city from the east, retook a series of neighborhoods and are now approaching the Tigris River, which divides the city into its eastern and western sides.
The western side, which is the smaller but more densely populated of the two, remains entirely under Daesh control.
Iraqi forces have also launched an operation to recapture Daesh-held towns near the Syrian border that along with Mosul and the northern town of Tal Afar are among the last populated areas under militant control.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said in late December that three months were needed to eliminate Daesh in the country.
But even if the militants no longer openly hold territory, they can still strike at Iraqi civilians and security forces with bombings and hit-and-run attacks.