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Mainly Iranian Pilgrims among Dead in ISIS Bombing near Baghdad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Men push a cart in front of a building destroyed during clashes between Iraqi forces and ISIS in Mosul, Iraq November 24, 2016. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

London- A suicide bombing south of Baghdad claimed by ISIS has killed at least 70 people, mainly Iranian pilgrims returning from Karbala, as Iraqi forces battle to retake Mosul from the jihadists.

Thursday’s huge truck bomb blast ripped through a petrol station near a village called Shomali, about 120 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.

Falah al-Radhi, head of the provincial security committee for Babylon, the province where the bombing happened, said several buses were targeted.

“A large truck exploded among them. It was a suicide attack,” he said. “There are at least 70 dead, fewer than 10 are Iraqis, the rest are Iranians.”

“There are completely charred corpses at the scene,” said Radhi, who added that at least 20 wounded were transferred to nearby hospitals.

The Joint Operations Command in Baghdad issued a statement saying the truck was packed with ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in many explosive devices.

ISIS, which is fighting to defend its Mosul stronghold in northern Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Elite forces battled ISIS jihadists in eastern Mosul Thursday, looking for fresh momentum in their five-week-old offensive to retake Iraq’s second city.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the airport of Tal Afar after it was liberated from the terrorist organization.

U.S. and Iraqi officials told Reuters that the airport was retaken after Iraqi Kurdish and Shi’ite fighters agreed to coordinate their operations and restrict the movement of the jihadists in and out of Mosul and aid the attempts of the forces ranged against them to complete the encirclement of the city from the western side.

Maan al-Saadi, a commander with the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told Agence France Presse on the front line in Mosul that his forces were fighting ISIS in the neighborhood of Al-Khadraa.

“They cannot flee. They have two choices — give up or die,” he said.