Iraqi troops on Thursday drove Islamic State militants from three more neighborhoods in the northern city of Mosul, a commander said, as a bomb south of Baghdad killed at least 21 people, including 10 Iranian pilgrims.
Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the special forces told The Associated Press that his men have retaken the neighborhoods of Amn, Qahira and Green Apartments and were expanding their foothold in the densely populated district of Zohour.
The neighborhoods are all east of the Tigris River, where most of the fighting has taken place since the government’s campaign to liberate the city began last month. A U.S.-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes to support the troops.
Hospital and police officials said the bombing, at a gas station near the town of Hilla, wounded another 32 people. They said it appeared to have targeted a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims heading home after taking part in a major Shiite religious observance in the holy city of Karbala. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which often targets Iraq’s Shiite majority. The Sunni extremists have continued to stage attacks across the country despite the heavy fighting in Mosul, which fell to IS in the summer of 2014.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi meanwhile flew to an airstrip outside the town of Tal Afar, to the west of Mosul, on a previously unannounced visit on Thursday, according to footage aired by the state-owned Iraqiya television network. The airstrip was seized from IS by state-sanctioned Shiite militiamen earlier this week.