In late December, the number of ISIS fighters left in Iraq and Syria was estimated to be less than 1000, which was a welcome addition to the news that Iraq declared itself fully liberated from the terror organization a few weeks prior. However, it seems that pockets of resistance do remain and are intent upon wreaking havoc, for twin suicide bombers struck Baghdad during rush hour on Monday, killing at least 38 people, according to the Associated Press.
The New York Times, which reports that another 60 people were injured, notes that the Islamic State has not yet claimed responsibility for the bombings. Yet security officials in Baghdad have observed all the hallmarks of an ISIS-style attack and, as a result, do suspect that sleeper cells still lurk within the capital. The newest bombings now threaten to crumble newfound hope in Baghdad:
The carnage in Tayaran Square punctured a growing sense of hope and pride that had permeated Baghdad after Iraq’s security forces, bolstered by large numbers of volunteers and fresh recruits, successfully fought grueling battles against the insurgent group that had held one-third of Iraqi territory and terrorized millions of citizens.
Indeed, Baghdad’s level of violence has lessened while ISIS has lost territory and was finally pushed out, but the threat has not evaporated. Monday’s attack follows a January 13 suicide bombing that injured four Iraqi security forces traveling within a convoy, and another insurgent killed five others while blowing himself up outside of Baghdad on Saturday.
In addition, counterterrorism experts have warned of scattered ISIS fighters retreating into a “virtual caliphate.” That is, they will continue recruiting efforts over the internet and via satellite cells, so the threat of “lone wolf attacks,” not only in Iraq but also in Syria and the West, shall likely continue.