Around 100 killed, mostly Iranian pilgrims, in truck bomb attack near Baghdad

A truck bomb at a gas station has killed approximately 100 people south of Baghdad, Iraq, according to authorities cited by Reuters. The attack, claimed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), likely targeted Iranian Shiite pilgrims.

At least 32 others were injured by the explosion, Iraqi officials told AP.

The blast, which took place in the city of Hilla 100 kilometers southeast of the capital, Baghdad, ripped through a gas station where seven buses carrying pilgrims were parked.

"At least seven buses with pilgrims were inside the petrol station at the time," a police officer told AFP.

The pilgrims were returning from Arbaeen in the city of Karbala, a major religious event for Shiite Muslims.

It commemorates the day Hussein Ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, was martyred in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. It is one of the world's largest religious observances.

"Those buses were loaded with Iranians, Bahrainis and Iraqis," a police source told AFP. 

“The buses that were carrying Iranian pilgrims and some of the Afghani pilgrims entered into a petrol station while there was a booby-trapped tanker waiting for them,” Saad Al-Mutalabi, a member of the Baghdad Security Council, told RT. “Upon their entry the detonator was set off and the tanker blew and caused the death of … my latest figures were 74 Iranian and Afghani pilgrims, with another number of injured people.”

“The area is between the city of the city of Babylon (al Hillah) and Baghdad, a highway and a pump station by the highway, not easy to protect, and it seems it was an opportunity for ISIS to implement this horrid attack.”

In an online statement, the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack. The group has been stepping up attacks on territory under its control in recent months in response to an ongoing offensive on Mosul, its stronghold in Iraq, by US-backed forces.

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Following its extremist interpretation of Islam, IS considers all Shiites apostates worthy of death. This is not the first time the militant group has lashed out at Arbaeen pilgrims, local journalist Altaf Ahmad told RT.

“In the past couple of weeks we saw a similar attack take place in the city of Samarra which is home to the shrines of the tenth and eleventh Shia imams,” she said.