IS claims responsibility for suicide bomb attack in Iraq's Diyala
Updated: 2015-07-18 21:15
BAGHDAD - The Islamic State (IS) militant group on Saturday claimed responsibility for Friday's huge suicide truck bomb explosion at a busy marketplace in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala.
In an online statement, the group said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove his truck bomb loaded with three tons of explosives and detonated it among Shiite militias near the Shiite mosque of al-Rasoul al-Aazam in the town of Khan Bani Saad in Diyala province.
The suicide truck bomb came in revenge to attacks carried out earlier by Shiite-dominated forces and aircraft on the IS-held town of Hawijh in the western part of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, said the statement, which its authenticity could not be independently verified.
Earlier, Diyala's provincial authorities said up to 97 people were killed, 133 others wounded and 23 others went missing by the powerful blast.
The blast flattened more than 35 shops and left some 40 others badly damaged, while dozens of stalls disappeared or destroyed within large circle around the blast, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The huge explosive also left some 45 civilian vehicles charred and dozens others damaged, the source said, adding that many of the victims' bodies were charred or cut into small pieces as a result of the blast.
The mostly-Shiite victims were gathered at the marketplace near the Shiite mosque for shopping to prepare for Eid al-Fitr feast that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended Friday for Iraqi Shiites and a day earlier for Iraqi Sunni Muslims.
The authorities declared three-day mourning and ordered all parks and entertainment places to close for the rest of the the Eid al-Fitr holiday, while security measures were intensified across the province to prevent any further attacks.
Earlier in the year, Diyala authorities announced that Diyala province was fully free from IS militants after major offensives against them, but some IS militants apparently are hiding in some orchards and hideouts across the province and have been carrying out sporadic attacks against the security forces and allied Shiite militias.
Violence and sectarian tension have been running high recently between Sunni and Shiite communities in the volatile province of Diyala, with frequent reprisal killings and occasional bloody attacks carried out by extremist groups.
Diyala province, which stretches from eastern edges of Baghdad to the Iranian border, has long been the stronghold of al-Qaida militant groups and hotbed of insurgency and sectarian violence since the US-led invasion broke out in 2003.
The security situation in Iraq has drastically deteriorated since June 2014, when bloody clashes broke out between security forces and IS militants.