NAJAF: The militant Islamic State group carried out rare attacks in Iraq’s deep Shia south on Sunday, killing at least 33 people with twin suicide car bomb blasts in the city of Samawa.

“The hospitals have received 33 dead,” said a senior official in the Muthanna health department, which covers Samawa. An officer in Mutha­nna Operations Command confirmed the toll.

They said at least 50 people were also wounded in the blasts in Samawa, 230km south of Baghdad.

“Two car bombs went off in town. The first one was at around midday near a bus station in the city centre,” a senior police officer in Muthanna province said.

“The other exploded about five minutes later, 400 metres from the spot of the first explosion,” he said.

IS issued a statement later on social media claiming two suicide attackers had detonated their car bombs against members of the security forces.

It named the bombers as Abu Dayyar al Qurashi and Abu Zubayr al Zaidi, saying that the second blew up his car bomb as security forces rushed to the scene of the first blast.

Samawa is the capital of Muthanna and lies deep in Iraq’s Shia heartland and such attacks there are rare.

A car bomb just outside Baghdad on Saturday killed at least 23 people, according to security and medical sources. That attack targeted the faithful walking to the northern Baghdad shrine of Imam Musa Kazim.

The IS almost systematically attempts to target pilgrims marching to holy sites during Iraq’s many religious commemorations.

But there was no immediate indication that the attacks in Samawa specifically targeted pilgrims.

IS has carried out several large and very deadly bomb attacks south of Baghdad in recent weeks.

At least 61 people were killed when a massive truck bomb exploded at a checkpoint at one of the entrances to the city of Hilla on March 6.

A suicide bomber blew himself up on March 26 during a trophy ceremony after a local football tournament near Iskandariyah, killing more than 30 people, many of them teenagers and children.

The jihadist group has been losing territory steadily in Iraq for almost a year.

Observers have warned that, as their self-proclaimed `caliphate’ shrinks, IS fighters are likely to revert to their old guerilla tactics and ramp up suicide attacks on civilian targets.

Sunday’s attacks came a day after thousands of anti-government protesters poured into Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone and stormed parliament, the culmination of months of protests by followers of influential Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr demanding wide-ranging political reforms.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Haider al Abadi ordered authorities to arrest and prosecute protesters who had attacked security forces, lawmakers and damaged state property after breaking into the Green Zone.

Also on Sunday, the United Nations said at least 741 Iraqis were killed in April due to ongoing violence, a sharp decline from the previous month.

In March, at least 1,119 people were killed and 1,561 wounded. Baghdad remains the worst-hit area, with 232 civilians killed and 642 wounded in April.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2016