Seven people were killed Wednesday in a suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State group in a former stronghold of the jihadists in western Iraq, a security official said.
The attacker detonated his explosives-laden vehicle at a joint security checkpoint managed by the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Forces at the southern entrance to the town of al-Qaim, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Syrian border, Maj. Gen Qasem al-Dulaimi said.
He said four security forces and three civilians were killed in the blast.
Al-Dulaimi blamed IS for the attack, and the group, through its Aamaq news agency, later claimed responsibility in posts it circulated on social media.
Also on Wednesday, the Criminal Court of Anbar Province, which includes al-Qaim, sentenced three men to death by hanging, finding them guilty of carrying out terror attacks in the province. There was no indication the men were connected to Wednesday’s attack.
Judge Abdelsattar Bayarqadar, spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, said the three men were members of IS. Al-Qaim is a former Islamic State group stronghold in Anbar province in western Iraq.
A spate of kidnappings and guerrilla style attacks in desert areas in western and central Iraq this summer have stirred security concerns in the country as it seeks to rebuild from its three-year-long war with the militant group.
Iraqi officials declared victory over the jihadists late last year after recapturing Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a grinding battle supported by the U.S.-led international coalition against IS.
But heavy-handed tactics by the military and the Shiite-dominated PMF, and faltering efforts at reconciliation between the country’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims, have fueled resentment in Sunni Muslim areas that were most affected by the war, and where IS cells are believed to operate.
Millions of Iraqis have not been able to return to their homes, including hundreds of thousands still living in displaced persons camps.
Iraq’s military and the PMF have been using the predominantly Sunni Anbar province as a base of operations against IS in the country’s western desert and for air operations against the group in neighboring Syria.