Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad; 32 dead, 110 injured

Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad; 32 dead, 110 injured
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Above, the scene of a twin suicide bombing which killed nearly 30 people on a bustling commercial street in the heart of Baghdad on January 21, 2021. (AFP)
Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad; 32 dead, 110 injured
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Iraqi security forces guard the site of a suicide attack in Baghdad, Iraq January 21, 2021. (Reuters)
 A man wounded during a twin suicide bombing attack in a central Baghdad market, receives treatment. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 January 2021

Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad; 32 dead, 110 injured

Twin suicide bombings rock central Baghdad; 32 dead, 110 injured
  • Open-air market for second-hand clothes in the Iraqi capital’s Tayaran Square was teeming with people

JEDDAH: Twin suicide bombings ripped through a busy market in the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing at least 32 people and wounding dozens, officials said in what was the first massive bombing in years, harkening back to darker days of rampant militant attacks.

The rare suicide bombing hit the Bab Al-Sharqi commercial area in central Baghdad amid heightened political tensions over planned early elections and a severe economic crisis. Blood was splattered on the pavement of the busy market amid piles of clothes and shoes as survivors took stock of the disarray in the aftermath.The Health Ministry announced that all of its hospitals in the capital were mobilized to treat the wounded.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said the Kingdom rejects all forms of terrorism and stands by Iraq against anything that threatens its security or stability. It expressed condolences to the families of the victims and the government and people of Iraq, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

Condemning the attack, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) expressed solidarity with Iraq in combating terrorism and enhancing its security and stability.

Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, GCC secretary-general, sent condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis denounced the terror strike as a “senseless act of brutality” and urged Iraqis to keep working to replace violence with fraternity and peace. The telegram of condolences sent to the Iraqi president was particularly heartfelt, given Francis is due to visit Iraq in early March to try to encourage the country’s Christian communities that have been devastated by Daesh persecution, reported The Associated Press.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iraqi military officials said it was the work of Daesh terrorists.

Iraq’s Health Minister Hassan Mohammed Al-Tamimi said at least 32 people were killed and 110 were wounded in the attack.

He said some of the wounded were in serious condition. Iraq’s military previously put the number of dead at 28. The Health Ministry announced that all of its hospitals in the capital were mobilized to treat the wounded.

Maj. Gen. Tahsin Al-Khafaji, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, which includes an array of Iraqi forces, said the first suicide bomber cried out loudly that he was ill in the middle of the bustling market, prompting a crowd to gather around him — and that’s when he detonated his explosive belt.

The second detonated his belt shortly after, he said. “This is a terrorist act perpetrated by a sleeper cell of Daesh,” Al-Khafaji said. He said Daesh “wanted to prove its existence” after suffering many blows in military operations to root out the militants.

The style of Thursday’s assault was similar to those Daesh has conducted in the past. But the group has rarely been able to penetrate the capital since being dislodged by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition in 2017. For some, it brought back painful memories from the height of Iraq’s sectarian street wars, when suicide bombings were a near-daily occurrence.

The twin bombings Thursday came days after Iraq’s government unanimously agreed to hold early elections in October. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi had announced in July that early polls would be held to meet the demands of anti-government protesters.

Iraq is also grappling with a severe economic crisis brought on by low oil prices that has led the government to borrow internally and risk depleting its foreign currency reserves. The Central Bank of Iraq devalued Iraq’s dinar by nearly 20 percent last year to meet spending obligations.

Iraqi security forces are frequently ambushed and targeted with IEDs in rural areas of Kirkuk and Diyala. An increase in attacks was seen last summer as militants took advantage of the government's focus on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
The twin bombings Thursday came days after Iraq's government unanimously agreed to hold early elections in October. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi had announced in July that early polls would be held to meet the demands of anti-government protesters.
Demonstrators took to the streets in the tens of thousands last year to demand political change, and an end to rampant corruption and poor services. More than 500 people were killed in mass demonstrations as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds.
Iraq is also grappling with a severe economic crisis brought on by low oil prices that has led the government to borrow internally and risk depleting its foreign currency reserves. The Central Bank of Iraq devalued Iraq's dinar by nearly 20% last year to meet spending obligations.


Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19

Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19
Updated 28 February 2021

Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19

Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19
  • Palestinian medical teams would be stationed at checkpoints to administer the vaccines
  • Of the 5.2 million people, only 32,000 have received the vaccine to date

JERUSALEM: Israel will administer COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians who work in Israel or in its settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli liaison office COGAT said on Sunday.
The vaccination campaign, which could apply to around 130,000 Palestinians, will begin within days, COGAT said.
Shaher Saad, secretary-general of the Palestinian Workers’ Union, said thousands of Palestinians who work in the Israeli service and industrial sectors had already been vaccinated privately by their employers inside Israel.
He said Palestinian medical teams would be stationed at checkpoints to administer the vaccines, by agreement with Israeli authorities.
Israel has given at least one dose of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine to more than half of its 9.3 million population, including Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
But it has come under international criticism for not doing more to enable vaccination of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
The Palestinians have received around 32,000 vaccine doses to date, for the 5.2 million people who live in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli officials have said that, under the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian health ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and those parts of the West Bank where it has limited self-rule.


Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach
Updated 28 February 2021

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach
  • The pair were asked to step down by Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh
  • The Jordanian news website Ammon claimed Mobaideen and Talhuni had attended a dinner in a restaurant in Amman with a total of nine people

AMMAN: Jordan’s interior and justice ministers were sacked Sunday for breaching health regulations to stem the spread of coronavirus, with their replacements named by royal decree.
The pair were asked to step down by Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh, a move immediately endorsed by King Abdullah II, according to a statement from the royal palace.
They are accused, according to a government source, of “having violated the emergency law” put in place to curb Covid-19.
The Jordanian news website Ammon claimed interior minister Samir Mobaideen and justice minister Bassam Talhuni had attended a dinner in a restaurant in Amman with a total of nine people, when the law allowed a maximum of six.
Tawfiq Krishan, deputy prime minister and in charge of local administration, was appointed as the new interior minister.
Ahmed Ziyadat, State Secretary for Legal Affairs, was named as justice minister.
Following a surge in virus cases, Jordan toughened this week its Covid-19 restrictions, returning to rules imposed in March last year, and which were only eased last month.
Jordan, which began vaccinations last month, has officially recorded more than 386,000 novel coronavirus cases and 4,675 deaths out of a population of 10.5 million people.


Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya
Updated 28 February 2021

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

CAIRO: Turkey has summoned the Iranian ambassador over accusations by Tehran that Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty, Al Arabiya TV reported Sunday. 

Turkey said it expects from Tehran to stand by Ankara in “combating terrorism”. 

Last week, Iran summoned the Turkish ambassador in Tehran over comments made by Turkish officials accusing Iran of destabilizing the region by getting involved in Iraq and Syria. 


Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark
Updated 28 February 2021

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran's health ministry said the country's coronavirus fatalities broke the 60,000 mark on Sunday, as the Islamic republic battles the Middle East's worst outbreak of the illness.
"Sadly in the past 24 hours, 93 people lost their lives to Covid-19, and total deaths from this disease reached 60,073," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address.
Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections, according to the ministry.


Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
Updated 28 February 2021

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
  • Russian Defense Ministry said the helicopter was not fired at

AMMAN/MOSCOW: A Russian Mi-35 helicopter made an emergency landing due to technical problems during a flight over Syria’s northern Hasaka province, state agencies quoted Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying on Sunday.
“The crew was quickly evacuated to the airfield. There is no threat to lives of the pilots,” the RIA news agency cited a Defense Ministry statement as saying.
The helicopter was not fired at, it added.
Syrian state media said earlier there were reports of a Russian helicopter crash in northeast Syria that killed the pilot.
It said the site of the crash was in Hasaka province, near Tal Tamr close to a Russian base.