Iraq officials: 21 killed in suicide bombing in Baghdad

Qassim Abdul-zahra
Associated Press

Baghdad — A suicide bomber struck a Baghdad memorial service for a Shiite militia fighter killed in battle against the Islamic State group, killing 21 people on Friday.

The bomber detonated his explosives’ vest at the service in the Iraqi capital’s southwestern suburb of Hay al-Amal, a police official told The Associated Press. At least 46 people were wounded in the explosion.

The militia fighter was killed in battle against the militant group in Iraq’s western Anbar province, police said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State militant group has frequently targeted large Shiite gatherings. The radical Sunni group believes that Shiites are apostates who have strayed from Islam.

Following its blitz last year, the Islamic State group — which splintered off from Iraq’s al-Qaida branch — now holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate.

Since the emergence of IS extremists, Baghdad has seen near-daily attacks, with roadside bombs, suicide blasts and assassinations targeting Iraqi forces and government officials, with significant casualties among the civilian population.

The violence has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Shiite militia fighters answered a call to arms last year after the country’s highest Shiite religious authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sisani, called on Iraqi men to defend the country. The militias, which later formed an umbrella paramilitary force called the Popular Mobilization Forces, have been an integral part in the battle against the Islamic State group, supporting Iraqi forces in battles in Salahuddin, Anbar and Baghdad provinces.

Also Friday in Baghdad, a roadside bomb detonated at a Shiite shrine in Sadr City, killing at least five people and wounding 15, police officials said.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.