Iraqi military spokesman Yehia Rasool said Thursday morning's attack was "carried out by two suicide bombers who detonated themselves when pursued by security forces" through the Bab Sharqi area.
The bombers targeted an open-air market for second-hand clothes in Tayaran Square, which was busy following the easing of almost a year of coronavirus-related restrictions.
An interior ministry statement said the first bomber rushed into the market, claiming to feel sick. When people gathered around him he detonated an explosive belt he was wearing.
"One [bomber] came, fell to the ground and started complaining 'my stomach is hurting' and he pressed the detonator in his hand. It exploded immediately," one stall holder told Reuters news agency. "People were torn to pieces."
The second bomber detonated as others came to help the victims, according to the interior ministry. A video posted on social media purportedly showed the second bomb exploding among a small crowd on a street. Other footage showed bodies strewn across the ground in the aftermath.
The death toll from the attack, the first of its kind in the capital for two years, could rise with more than 70 people wounded
Terrorists from the Islamic State group were suspected to be responsible for the explosions which ripped through a busy open air market, although there was no immediate confirmation from the group.