Iraq stadium attack death toll hits 41
Iraqi officials say the death toll from a suicide bombing at a soccer stadium that was claimed by the Islamic State group has climbed to 41, with another 105 people wounded.
The security and public health officials provided the updated toll Saturday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
The bombing took place Friday during a match in the small stadium in the city of Iskanderiyah, 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the capital, Baghdad. IS claimed the attack, saying it had targeted Shiite militiamen.
The extremist group has lost ground in recent months in Iraq and Syria, but has struck back with a series of large attacks targeting civilians. IS claimed this week\’s attacks in Brussels, which killed 31 people.
"Seventeen of those killed are boys aged between 10 and 16," the official said.
The village of Al-Asriya lies near Iskandariyah, a town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the capital.
The bomber detonated his suicide vest late afternoon on Friday as local officials were handing trophies to the players after a local tournament.
A video posted on social media shows a local official speaking in front of a table covered with trophies and calling out the name of a player before a huge blast.
The footage cuts off with a big flash of yellow light.
"The suicide bomber cut through the crowd to approach the centre of the gathering and blew himself up as the mayor was presenting awards to the players," Ali Nashmi, an 18-year-old eyewitness, told AFP.
The mayor, Ahmed Shaker, was among the dead, as was one of his bodyguards and at least five members of the security forces.
Pictures posted on social media of the blast site showed mangled goal posts smeared with blood.
The United States state department extended its condolences to the bereaved in a statement, as did the United Nations special envoy to Iraq.
"Pictures posted on social media of the blast site showed mangled goal posts smeared with blood," Jan Kubis said in a statement.
IS has been losing territory steadily in Iraq for almost a year.
In the most recent operations, Iraqi forces have been gaining ground in the western province of Anbar and have just begun their reconquest of the province of Nineveh.
Observers have warned that, as their self-proclaimed "caliphate" shrinks towards extinction, IS fighters are likely to revert to their old guerrilla tactics and ramp up suicide attacks on civilian targets.
SOURCE: AFP and Associated Press