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Sep 25, 8:19 AM EDT

Suicide bomber targets Shiites in Iraqi capital, kills 7

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AP Photo/Hadi Mizban

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber in Iraq killed at least seven people who were setting up tents on Sunday ahead of a major Shiite religious observance next month, officials said.

The bomber struck as residents of Baghdad's western Eskan neighborhood were preparing for Ashoura, which commemorates the 7th century death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, a police officer said, adding that another 28 people were wounded.

A medical official confirmed the toll. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement, saying it targeted gathering of Shiite militia members. IS and other Sunni extremists frequently target Iraq's Shiite majority, who they view as apostates deserving of death.

Ashoura annually draws hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims to Iraq, particularly the city of Karbala, where Hussain is buried.

The attack came a day after IS militants launched a triple suicide bombing that killed 11 Iraqi security forces and wounded 34 at a checkpoint north of Baghdad.

IS has suffered a series of setbacks in recent months, losing much of the territory it seized in the summer of 2014, but it has continued to carry out attacks targeting Shiites and security forces.

The extremists still control Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. Iraqi officials say they hope to launch an operation to retake the city by the end of the year.


Associated Press writers Murtada Faraj in Baghdad and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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