Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the elimination of jihadist “sleeper cells” Monday after a twin suicide bombing killed 31 people in Baghdad in the second such attack in three days.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but most such attacks in Iraq are the work of Daesh.
The bombing comes after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi´s government declared victory over Daesh in December and as the country gears up for parliamentary elections.
“Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Tayyaran Square in central Baghdad,” said General Saad Maan, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and the police.
Abdel Ghani al-Saadi, health chief for east Baghdad, reported: “26 dead and 90 wounded”.
Tayyaran Square is a bustling commercial centre and a place where day labourers gather in the early morning waiting for jobs. It has been the site of deadly attacks in the past.
Security forces cordoned off the scene of the bombing as ambulances gathered in the area, an AFP journalist said.
Abadi held an emergency meeting with the Joint Operations Command and intelligence officials after the bombing, his office said, asking them to “eliminate [Daesh] sleeper cells and protect the security of civilians”.
Analysts have warned that Daesh would increasingly turn to such attacks as it was pushed underground after losing territory spanning the Iraq-Syria border.
Elections in May
In December, the government announced the “end of the war” against Daesh, which has been expelled from the Baghdad region and urban areas of Iraq that it controlled.
Extremist elements are still active however.
On Saturday, a suicide bomb attack near a security checkpoint killed at least five people in northern Baghdad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for that bombing.
The bombings come as Iraq gears up for elections in May.
Abadi has said he will stand for re-election in the parliamentary polls as the head of a new coalition.
Abadi´s newly created “Victory Alliance” will compete against the “State of Law” bloc of Nuri al-Maliki, his predecessor and a key rival who now holds the post of vice president.
Abadi was little known when he became premier three years ago after Maliki ceded power to him in August 2014 amid Daesh´s sweeping offensive across the country.
Since taking over, Abadi has also rebuilt the armed forces and taken back disputed areas in the north from the Kurds, dashing their hopes for independence.
The Hashed, or Popular Mobilisation Units, are now seeking to become a key political player in Iraq after proving to be a formidable force on the battlefield.