The death toll of a suicide car bombing near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad rose to more than 90 on Saturday, with at least 17 more missing after one of the largest attacks claimed by the Islamic State group since it took control of large parts of the country.
The attack hit a busy market in the Shiite-majority town of Khan Bani Saad, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, on Friday night, killing close to 100 people and wounding some 120 others, according to local authorities.
Victims of the deadly blast included many who were celebrating the Muslim religious holiday Eid al-Fitr, concluding a month of fasting for Ramadan.
“We are guilty of being Shiite,” local official Abbas Hadi Saleh told AFP at the scene of the bombing.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, the Islamic State group issued a statement saying it was targeting “rejectionists,” referring to Shiites, to avenge the death of Sunni Muslims killed in northern Iraq, where the militant group controls large areas.
Local police described the aftermath of the attack as “devastating,” painting a brutal picture of scattered severed body parts blown around the market in the force of the blast. Over a dozen children were among those killed in the attack, and some victims remained buried under debris of buildings destroyed in the bombing.
According to an AFP correspondent, the bomb left a crater over 16 feet wide and more than 6 feet deep in the street where it exploded. ISIS claimed that the suicide bomber was carrying three tons of explosives in the vehicle to carry out the attack.
Although Iraqi officials delcared victory over the Islamic State group in Diyala province, where the targeted town of Khan Bani Saad is located, at the beginning of the year, militants remain. Authorities say there has been an increase in smaller attacks in the area in recent weeks. Friday night's suicide bombing is the deadliest attack yet.
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The provincial government has declared three days of mourning in the wake of the attack.
Large parts of northern and western Iraq have been seized by the Islamic State group. Iraqi security forces have recently been most focused on the western province of Anbar, where Islamic State militants took control of the major city of Ramadi in May following a months-long offensive.