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Massive truck bomb blast targets Iranian pilgrims in Iraq Open in fullscreen

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Massive truck bomb blast targets Iranian pilgrims in Iraq

Between 17 and 20 million people visited Karba for Arbaeen [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 November, 2016

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A car bomb has ripped through parked buses in a petrol station loaded with Shia pilgrims, killing at least 70 people, mainly Iranians, returning from the Arbaeen commemoration.

A car bomb has ripped through parked buses in a petrol station loaded with Shia pilgrims, killing at least 70 people, mainly Iranians, returning from the Arbaeen commemoration.

Thursday's attack in the village of Shomali targeted the Iranian pilgrims - the largest contingent of foreigners at the pilgrimage that ended on Monday - on their way home from the holy Iraqi city of Karbala.

"There are at least 70 dead, fewer than 10 are Iraqis, the rest are Iranians," said Falah al-Radhi, head of the security committee for the Babylon provincial council.

A police source said the buses were loaded with Iranian, Bahraini and Iraqi pilgrims.

IS, which is fighting to defend its Mosul stronghold in northern Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The IS affiliated Amaq news said that over 200 Shia pilgrims had been killed and injured in a suicide truck attack.

The Sunni extremists have continued to stage attacks across the country despite the heavy fighting in Mosul, which fell to IS in the summer of 2014.

Between 17 and 20 million people visited Karbala, home to the mausoleum of Imam Hussein, for Arbaeen, which is one of the world's largest religious events.

Iraq's security forces were on high alert for the duration of the pilgrimage, seen as a major potential target for IS.

Observers had feared the group, whose cross-border caliphate is crumbling under the pressure of a massive government offensive against Mosul, would seek to attack Karbala.

Around 25,000 members of the security forces were deployed in and around the city last week to protect the pilgrims and the shrine but some have since returned to the front lines.

The attack has marred an Arbaeen commemoration that had passed with fewer attacks than in previous years.

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