The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack near the Iraqi city of Karbala on Friday, the group’s Amaq news agency said.
Iraqi security services said on Friday that 12 people were killed and five wounded when a bus was bombed near the city, which is holy to Shia Muslims, 100 kilometres (62 miles) southwest of Baghdad.
Two police spokesmen at the blast site told Reuters news agency that an explosive device planted on the bus detonated at a northern entrance to the city, setting fire to the vehicle.
The bombing was one of the worst attacks targeting civilians since the armed group was declared defeated inside Iraq in 2017. However, the group continues to claim sporadic attacks in parts of the country.
In the wake of Friday’s bombing, Iraqi forces increased their presence and security measures around Karbala.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Saturday said security forces detained a man suspected of leaving the bomb on the bus. He gave no further details about the suspect.
Speaker of Iraq’s parliament Mohamad al-Halbousi expressed his frustration with the repeated “failures of intelligence agencies” to prevent such attacks. He said security planning should be reviewed and intelligence gathering intensified.
The bombing took place during a period that fell between Ashoura and Arbaeen, two important religious events for Shia Muslims.
Ashoura is on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. For Shia Muslims, it is a major event that commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who died at the Battle of Karbala in the year 680.
Arbaeen comes 40 days later and marks the end of the mourning period for Hussein’s death. Iraqis and Shia pilgrims from around the world visit Karbala during this time of year.