A suicide bomber on Sunday rammed his explosives-laden fuel truck into a security checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing at least 47 people and wounding dozens, officials said, the latest episode in an uptick in violence in the war-ravaged country.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after. In a statement posted on social media, IS named the bomber who detonated his truck at a checkpoint outside the city of Hillah as Abu Islam al-Ansari, adding that the bombing had killed and wounded “more than 90” people.
“The Rafidha (a derogatory term for Shias) must understand that the battle has just begun and that the worst is yet to come,” the statement read.
IS and other Sunni militants frequently use car bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas and government buildings in their bid to undermine confidence in the Shia-led government in Baghdad.
Among the dead were 39 civilians, while the rest were members of the security forces. The attacker struck shortly after noon when the checkpoint at one of the entrances to the city of Hillah was crowded with dozens of cars, a police officer said.
He added that up to 65 other people were wounded and nearly 50 cars were damaged. Hillah is located about 95 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad.
A medical official confirmed the causality figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to release information.
Iraq has seen a spike in violence in the past month, with suicide attacks in and outside Baghdad, all claimed by the Islamic State group, killing more than 170 people. IS controls large swaths of Iraq and neighbouring Syria and has declared an Islamic “caliphate” on the territory it holds.
According to United Nations figures, at least 670 Iraqis were killed last month due to ongoing violence, of whom about two-thirds were civilians.