BAGHDAD: A suicide truck bomb on Thursday killed about 100 people, most of them Iranian pilgrims, at a petrol station in the city of Hilla, about 100km south of Baghdad, police and medical sources said.

The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement.

The pilgrims were en route back to Iran from Karbala, where they had commemorated Arbaeen, the medical sources said.

The gas station has a restaurant on its premises that is popular with travellers. Five pilgrim buses were torched by the force of the blast from the explosives-laden truck, a police official said.


IS claims responsibility for the assault


Many Iranian nationals — the largest contingent of foreigners at the Arbaeen pilgrimage that ended on Monday — were among the victims, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said. The attack took place near a village called Shomali.

“At least seven buses with pilgrims were inside the petrol station at the time,” a senior police said. “Those buses were loaded with Iranians, Bahrainis and Iraqis. Ambulances and civil defence are on their way to the site,” a police intelligence source said. A Shomali resident said the petrol station is located on the main motorway between Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra. “There were Iranians but also lots of people from Basra and Nasiriyah,” Mousa Omran said, referring to another southern city. Between 17 and 20 million people visited Karbala, home to the mausoleum of Hazrat Imam Husain.

The days-long final phase of the pilgrimage sees huge numbers of pilgrims walk long distances to reach Karbala. According to the Iraqi authorities, around three million Iranians were among this year’s visitors. Many of them stay a few days longer to visit the shrine city. Iraq’s security forces were on high alert for the duration of the pilgrimage, seen as a major potential target for IS.

The militant organisation, which is currently trying to defend its last major Iraqi bastion of Mosul against a massive offensive, has claimed countless such bombings. According to analysts, IS has intensified attacks over the past month in areas out of its control in efforts to weaken the US-backed offensive launched on Oct 17 to retake Mosul.

In a statement quoted by the SITE Intelligence Group, the group said a bomber “blew up his vehicle amidst their assembly, inflicting among them more than 200 killed and wounded, including Iranians”.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2016

Opinion

Editorial

‘Draconian’ law
06 Oct, 2022

‘Draconian’ law

THE debate over what it means to be ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ has reignited after the incumbent Supreme Court ...
Welcome clarity
Updated 06 Oct, 2022

Welcome clarity

There needs to be consensus amongst all political actors that matters of governance should be the exclusive domain of civilians.
Car purchases
06 Oct, 2022

Car purchases

IF we are in the market to buy a new car, we end up paying a significantly large amount as premium over the sticker...
More than economics
Updated 05 Oct, 2022

More than economics

Ishaq Dar’s appointment is but a sign of the paradigm shift in economic policymaking.
Dens of corruption
05 Oct, 2022

Dens of corruption

MOST prisons in Pakistan are a microcosm of the inequitable and exploitative world outside their walls. A probe by...
Football tragedy
05 Oct, 2022

Football tragedy

SPORTS arouses the rawest of human emotions. Football is no exception — in fact, the passions on display at...