BAGHDAD — An Islamic State suicide bomber killed 24 people who had gathered to watch a soccer match in a stadium south of Baghdad on Friday evening, according Iraq’s Interior Ministry.
The attack in the Babil province town of Iskandariyah came hours after U.S. officials said they had killed the Islamic State’s No. 2 commander, an Iraqi, in an airstrike in Syria, though there was no immediate reason to believe the incidents were linked.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry put the death toll at 24 and said an additional 80 people were injured. According to a Babil police spokesman, Col. Muthanna Harith, preliminary reports suggest 30 people died as trophies were being awarded to the teams. Another 65 people were injured, he said.
In a statement issued by its Amaq news agency, the Islamic State said the attack targeted a gathering of Shiite militias, known collectively as Hashd al-Shaabi.
Two of those injured were senior members of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, an Iran-backed group active on the front lines against the Islamic State, but most of the victims were civilians, said Falah Abdul Kareem, the head of the local security council.
The Islamic State said that more than 60 people died, including a local militia commander, and nearly 100 were wounded by the attack. The bomber was named as Saifullah al-Ansari, an apparently fake name indicating that he was a local Iraqi or Syrian member of the group. A photograph accompanying the statement suggests he was in his teens.
“Our knight immersed into their crowds until he detonated his belt, turning them into scattered parts,” the statement said.
The Islamic State has been resorting to suicide attacks with growing frequency in recent weeks as the group’s fighters are slowly losing control of territories they had controlled in some instances since 2014.
More than 50 people died in a suicide truck bombing in the Babil province town of Hilla earlier this month, a week after two suicide bombings targeting Shiite areas of Baghdad killed over 100. Hilla is a mixed Sunni-Shiite province, but the attacks there have targeted Shiite communities.
Sly reported from Beirut.