Islamic State claims central Baghdad bombing

Iraqi security forces gather at the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Bab Sharji district, March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The hardline Sunni militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Tuesday morning in central Baghdad that police said killed three people and wounded 27.

The blast occurred near a gathering of workers in Tayaran Square, about a kilometer from a sit-in held by supporters of influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to demand political reforms.

Islamic State, which claimed responsibility in an online statement, also claimed a suicide bombing last Friday that killed 26 people at an amateur soccer game in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad.

At least 60 people were killed earlier this month in an attack further south, in Hilla, when an explosives-laden fuel tanker slammed into an Iraqi security checkpoint.

An apparent escalation of bombings targeting areas outside Islamic State’s primary control in northern and western Iraq suggests that Iraqi government forces may be stretched thin after recent gains against the group.

Analysts in Europe have interpreted recent attacks there, such as last week’s bombings in Brussels or the killings in Paris last November, as a sign that Islamic State was expanding its field of action in response to setbacks in Iraq and Syria.

But Baghdad analysts say the group has long staged indiscriminate suicide bombings and see these attacks as a continuation of that tactic.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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