A suicide bomber has blown himself up on a soccer field as trophies were being presented after a local tournament south of Baghdad. At least 30 people were killed in the attack.
The bombing took place during a match in the small stadium in Iskanderiyah, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
The self-declared “Islamic State” (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack via an online statement, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a monitoring organization based in the US.
“Our knight immersed into their crowds, until he detonated his belt, turning them into scattered parts,” the statement said, according to a translation by SITE, which estimated the death toll to be considerably higher. The bomber was named as Saifullah al-Ansari.
Death toll likely to rise
The town’s mayor, Ahmed Shaker, was reportedly among the dead.
“The mayor died in hospital as a result of the serious wounds he suffered in the blast,” a medic said, adding that one of the mayor’s bodyguards and at least five members of the security forces were also among those killed.
“They were just handing the trophy to the winners when the suicide attacker blew himself up in the crowd,” a police captain told the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency. He added that more than 65 people were also wounded in the blast.
Iskanderiyah is part of a mixed Sunni-Shiite area, once dubbed “the triangle of death” due to the prevalence of sectarian violence since the onset of insurgency that came with the Iraq war.
IS losing ground
The bombing came as Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rusoul announced that Iraqi troops and Sunni tribal fighters had recaptured the town of Kubeisa in western Anbar province from the “Islamic State.”
IS fighters were also pushed out of a string of villages in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province under cover of heavy coalition airstrikes on Thursday, as the ground offensive inched forward to retake the city of Mosul.
Analysts and officials say they expect IS to turn to more insurgent style attacks in Iraq and internationally as the group loses ground on the battlefield.
At least 61 people were killed when a truck bomb exploded at a checkpoint at the entrance to the city of Hilla on March 6.
ss/cmk (AP, AFP)