At least 37 people were killed Saturday in a string of bombings that hit Baghdad just as a decade-long curfew that restricted movement in the city at night was due to be lifted.
A suicide bomber killed 22 people and wounded at least 45 after detonating a bomb in a crowded street of the predominantly Shi'ite New Baghdad neighborhood. The gruesome aftermath of the blast was captured on video, with body parts strewn throughout the street and blood everywhere.
Two other bombs went off in Baghdad's Shorja market, killing at least 25 people. Another attack that took place in the Abu Cheer market killed four more.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings, although suspicions fell on the Islamic State, which has taken control of large swaths of northern Iraq and carried out attacks in the capital in the past.
The attacks came just hours before the government planned to lift a midnight-to-5am curfew that has been in place in various forms since 2004. The curfew was imposed shortly after the US invasion in an attempt to curb sectarian violence in the capital.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the scheduled lifting of the curfew Thursday. Al-Abadi's spokesman Rafid Jaboori called it an attempt to bring the country back to normalcy "despite the existence of a state of war." The easing of restrictions also includes "demilitarizing" large areas of the city that had previously been blocked off to cars and pedestrians in order to " facilitate the movement of citizens," according to a statement by the government.
Although the government said Saturday's attacks were not directly related to the lifting of the curfew, the announcement indicates a substantial policy shift for the country, which has been rocked by near-continual violence since 2003. It is also seen as an attempt to reassure Iraqis and the international community that Baghdad is safe and firmly under government control, despite the growing threat from the Islamic State.
The government's announcement Thursday came just two days after a string of bombs killed 10 people throughout the capital.
This is not the first time violence has followed the announcement to relax restrictions in Baghdad. In 2006, bombings killed nearly 30 people after the government lifted a daytime driving ban in the city.
A curfew still exists in many other cities throughout the Iraq, although the announcement in Baghdad opens up the possibility the restrictions could be lifted elsewhere. A new curfew was recently imposed in the northern city of Kirkuk after threats of attacks by the Islamic State.
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