A suicide truck bomb has exploded at a gas station south of Baghdad, apparently targeting buses packed with Iranian Shiite pilgrims. Police and medical sources said there were around 100 dead and many wounded.
A suicide truck bomb blast went off at a gas station on Thursday near the city of Hilla, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, hitting a number of buses carrying Shiite pilgrims returning from the holy city of Karbala.
Iraqi officials said the bomb killed around 100 people and wounded more than 100, most of them Shiite Iranian pilgrims.
The so-called "Islamic State" group claimed credit for the attack through its Amaq News Agency. It has carried out similar attacks in areas outside its control in the past in response to government offensives against IS controlled areas. The Sunni extremist group considers Shiites to be apostates.
Major Shiite pilgrimage
The gas station has an adjacent restaturant often used by Iranian pilgrims to rest on their way back from commemorating Arbaeen. The religious date marks the 40th day of mourning after Ashura, a Shiite religious event remembering the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, in the battle of Karbala in 680.
Hussein and his half-brother Abbas were killed in a revolt against the Umayyad ruler Yazeed in the 7th century, and their shrines in Karbala are visited by large crowds during the Arbaeen pilgrimage.
The religious event, in which 17 to 20 million people took part in this year, was accompanied by tight security measures put in place by Iraqi authorities, including military escorts for those pilgrims taking part in a traditional procession on foot from Baghdad to Karbala.
Some 3 million Iranians were among the visitors to the city this year, according to Iraqi authorities.
cw,tj/kl (AFP, Reuters)