Militants in Iraq have carried out a series of suicide attacks on Shi’ite mosques in the country’s northeast, killing at least 22 worshippers, including a senior police officer.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings but they bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State extremist group, which has carried near-daily attacks – along with other Sunni militant groups – against the Shi’ite majority, Iraqi officials and security forces.
The IS considers Shi’ites heretics and has, since last year, captured large chunks of territory in western and northern Iraq, plunging the country into its worst crisis since US troops left at the end of 2011.
In the town of Balad Ruz, a suicide car bomber attacked the al-Zahraa mosque as worshippers were leaving after the Friday mid-day prayers, a police officer said.
A second suicide bomber on foot then attacked the crowds gathered in the aftermath.
The twin attacks in Balad Ruz, located about 70 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, killed at least 18 people and injured at least 41.
Among the dead were the leader of the town’s police commandos, Col. Adnan Mohammed al-Timimi, and two policemen, the official added.
Separately, a suicide bomber drove his car into worshippers as they were leaving the Imam Hussein Shi’ite mosque in the town of Kanaan, about 75 kilometres northeast of the Iraqi capital, the police officer added.
Four people were killed and at least 18 wounded in that attack.
Friday’s bombings came ahead of next week’s major Shi’ite event commemorating the anniversary of the 8th century death of a revered religious figure, Imam Mousa al-Kazim, when thousands of pilgrims march to his shrine in northern Baghdad.