BAGHDAD: A suicide bombing near the oil-rich city of Basra killed at least eight people as the Islamic State group took the fight against Iraqi forces deep into the country’s south, a military commander said Saturday.
Five civilians and three troops were killed when the bomber blew up his explosives-laden car on Friday at a checkpoint north of Basra just behind a bus waiting to be cleared, said chief of the Basra Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Jamil al-Shimmari.
At least 41 others were wounded, al-Shimmari said.
A second attacker drove down a desert road after the explosion and security forces killed him, al-Shimmari added.
Basra, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, is home to about 70 percent of the country’s proven oil reserves of 153.1 billion barrels. Located on the Persian Gulf and bordering Kuwait and Iran, the city is also Iraq’s only outlet to the sea and the hub for most of the country’s oil exports, with 3.23 million barrels exported from Basra last month.
In an online statement, IS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted Shiites.
The group also claimed in the statement responsibility for the double suicide bombings in Baghdad overnight that killed at least 19 people and wounded 33.
The attacks come as Iraqi forces, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, are slowly moving in on the last neighborhoods held by IS militants in the northern city of Mosul. IS now only holds a handful of neighborhoods in that key city, including the Old City where the most intense battles of the operation are expected to play out.