Baghdad Rocked by Explosion

Early in the morning of January 21, 2021, the Bab al-Sharqi Market Center in Baghdad, Iraq was targeted by two suicide bombers, leaving over 25 dead and 70 wounded. The commercial center is deep inside Saraya Al Salam territory, raising fears that sectarian violence may be to blame. The attack follows a coordinated strike against Iraqi power infrastructure last week which resulted in additional stress to an already overwhelmed grid.



Timeline

Although The Intelligence Ledger has been unable to ascertain the exact time of the first detention, the way in which events unfolded seems clear. According to Iraq's Ministry of Interior, the first suicide bomber made his way into the Bab al-Sharqi dressed in unusually heavy clothing. Non-government sources claim the man was approached by security officers, although this has not been independently confirmed. Regardless, the man was able to successfully make his way to a crowded area and detonate his vest, as shown below. Following the first detonation, passerby's and first responders rushed to assist the wounded. At this point, a second bomber entered the fray and detonated his explosives.



Following the two attacks, security forces have established a major security perimeter around ground zero.


Assessment

Suicide bombings have become rare in the four years since the defeat of the Islamic State (IS). In fact, the last known one occurred on January 15, 2018 and resulted in the deaths of 35 day laborers. Increased IS around Baghdad may be related to the attack, as Iraqi forces have swept up several cells over the past two weeks.


However, the attacks may be completely unrelated to the Islamic State. Instead, the strike may be in response to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadehmi's plan to set a new round of general elections in early June or October. The January 15, 2018 also occurred months before the last round of elections in Iraq, and undoubtedly shifted some votes in one direction rather than another.