At least 26 people have been killed in suicide bomb explosions at a wedding party in a village near the Iraqi city of Tikrit, the new chapter in a series of deadly ones that rocked Iraq’s cities in retaliation for ISIS major losses in Mosul battle.
The United States is providing air and ground support to Iraqi and Kurdish forces trying to dislodge the hardline group from Mosul.
Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19.
Islamic State militants who retreated across the Tigris river to western districts also regularly target civilian areas under government control in the east with mortars and grenades dropped from drones.
Several thousand militants, including many who traveled from Western countries to join up, are believed to be in Mosul among a remaining civilian population estimated at the start of the offensive at 750,000.
They are using mortars, sniper fire, booby traps and suicide car bombs to fight the offensive carried out by a 100,000-strong force made up of Iraqi armed forces, regional Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iranian-trained Shi’ite paramilitary groups.
In addition, the group is using suicide bombings in other Iraqi cities as a tool to keep the tension in the country and revenge its losses in Mosul.
A bombing in Tikrit wedding
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack in Hajjaj village, located 20km north of Tikrit. ISIS later claimed responsibility fir the attack which killed more than 26 civilians.
Security forces cordoned off the area and imposed a wider curfew for fear of more attackers.
A police source told Reuters that two blasts hit the wedding and two more targeted security forces at the scene shortly afterwards. There were ongoing clashes between security forces and fighters in the area, he said.
The first detonated an explosive vest among men who were dancing, then a second bomber targeted those who had gathered to help, officials said.
Most of the dead were children, a local government spokesman told AP.
ISIS said it had targeted a gathering of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of mostly Shia paramilitaries backed by Iran.
In a post on its channels on the messaging app Telegram, IS said the attackers had clashed with members of the group before detonating their explosives.
At least 25 people were wounded. Iraqi security forces retook Tikrit from ISIS in April 2015.
In November deadly and apparently diversionary bomb attacks by the group hit Tikrit and Samarra, both north of Baghdad.
Suicide bombings as a war strategy
The latest bombing incident claimed by ISIS was in Mosul on Feb. 19 when two suicide bombings were conducted.
Five people were killed, including three Iraqi soldiers, in the two suicide bombings in eastern Mosul.
The first attack targeted an army checkpoint, killing three soldiers, and the second a gathering of civilians in the commercial district known as “My Fair Lady,” killing two.
A dozen people were also wounded in the two attacks carried out by men wearing explosive vests, the sources said, contacted from Erbil, the Kurdish region’s capital east of Mosul.
The bombers are suspected by the security sources to have crossed into eastern Mosul from the western side which is still under Islamic State control.
A suicide bombing at a restaurant in the same area on February 10th killed 14 people and wounded 39, the second of its kind in the four-month-old Mosul battle.