The Islamic State said Saturday that it used a truck bomb packed with three tons of explosives to target Shiite pilgrims as they walked to a shrine in Baghdad, in an attack that killed at least 23 people.
The bomber, however, was unable to reach the pilgrimage route because roads in the area were closed to traffic, said Haider Abdullah, mayor of the Baghdad neighborhood of Nahrawan, where the attack took place. Instead the suicide bomber detonated the truck bomb among crowds at a busy sheep market nearby, Abdullah said.
Thousands of Shiite pilgrims from across Iraq are making their way by foot to the shrine of an 8th-century imam, Moussa al-Kadhim, to commemorate his death. Such gatherings are a target for the Islamic State, which considers Shiite Muslims apostates and regularly bombs their neighborhoods.
Extra security measures, including roadblocks and checkpoints, had been put up in recent days in the capital in an attempt to secure the pilgrimage route.
In a statement circulated on social media, the Islamic State said it targeted pilgrims on the way to their “polytheist ritual.”
“For sure it was supposed to target the pilgrims,” said Abdullah, the mayor. “But when they found all the roads were closed, they chose this place because it was very crowded.”
He said 43 people were killed in the bombing about 6:30 a.m., while Iraq’s Interior Ministry put the death toll at 23. The Islamic State claimed it had killed “nearly 100.”
Abdullah, who had visited the bomb site, said it had left a deep crater, bursting an underground water pipe. Electricity and water supply in the area were disrupted, he said.