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Iraq’s interior ministry says militants planned other attacks during Muslim holiday

Published: Updated:

The extremist militants believed to be behind last week’s deadly suicide bombing of a Baghdad market had planned more attacks during the Eid-al Adha festival, Iraq’s interior ministry said Sunday.

The ministry released photos of five suspects arrested, including three brothers, after last Monday’s attack that, according to the official toll, killed 30 people and was claimed by ISIS.

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Iraqi security forces have dismantled “two terrorist networks in the provinces of Anbar and Kirkuk responsible for the July 19 attack in Sadr City”, a poor Shia district of Baghdad.

“They were planning other attacks in other parts of Baghdad and other provinces during Eid,” a ministry statement said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi announced Saturday the arrest of the “terror cell” behind the Baghdad market bombing.

Iraqi television broadcast overnight the “confessions” of the five, who were dressed in yellow prison suits, a common practice in major criminal cases in Iraq.

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 hit the al-Woheilat market in Sadr City, where many families were crowded on the eve of the Eid al-Adha, the most important Muslim holiday.

The announcement of the dismantling of the cell came on the eve of Kadhemi’s departure for Washington, where he was to meet US President Joe Biden on Monday.

The Iraqi prime minister, under heavy pressure from powerful pro-Iranian factions in his country, is hoping for a substantial announcement on the withdrawal of US troops in Iraq.

Some 2,500 US troops are deployed to assist Iraqi forces in the fight against IS, which controlled large parts of Iraqi territory between 2014 and 2017.

It has been officially defeated, but its sleeper cells still carry out occasional attacks.

Already in January, a suicide bombing claimed by the IS killed 32 people in a Baghdad market.

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