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Car Bombs Kill Dozens After Iraqi Town Seized From IS Militants

  • RFE/RL

Two car bombings in Iraq have killed at least 34 people.

The deadliest attack targeted a Shi'ite militia checkpoint on the outskirts of Jurf al-Sakhar, about 50 kilometers south of Baghdad, just a day after Iraqi government and Shi'ite militia forces recaptured the Sunni-dominated area from Islamic State militants.

Authorities said a suicide bomber, thought to be an IS militant, rammed an explosives-laden Humvee into the checkpoint -- killing at least 24 people and wounding more than 20.

Meanwhile, police said at least 10 people were killed by a car bomb that exploded in downtown Baghdad's Shi'ite-majority Karrada district late on October 27.

Control of Jurf al-Sakhar, which had been in the hands of IS militants since late July, is critical for Iraqi security forces.

Recapture of the town could allow Iraqi forces to prevent IS militants from edging closer to Baghdad.

It also severs IS militants' connections to their strongholds in western Anbar province, and could stop them from infiltrating the mainly Shi'ite Muslim south.

Iraqi officials have said the insurgents have been moving fighters, weapons, and supplies from western Iraq though secret tunnels to Jurf al-Sakhar.

Jurf al-Sakhar lies on a road usually taken by Shi'ite pilgrims when they head in droves to the holy Shi'ite city of Karbala to the southwest of Baghdad.

Pilgrims will be taking the route again next week to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein, one the most revered Shi'ite figures.

Iraqi security forces also drove IS militants out of four villages near the oil city of Kirkuk in the north on October 26.

On the same day, Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes regained control of the northern town of Zumar, near Mosul, after weeks of fighting.

The U.S. military said the United States and other partner countries led seven air strikes in Iraq on October 26 and 27.

The air strikes included three strikes near the Mosul Dam area that hit a small unit of IS fighter, the military said in statement.

IS militants swept through the north of Iraq in June and control large parts of the west as well.

The extremist group also holds swathes of territory in neighboring Syria.

The militant group, made up of Arab and foreign fighters, seeks to create an Islamic caliphate.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Syria, members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and other Syrian rebel factions launched simultaneous attacks on army checkpoints, police headquarters, and the governor's office in northwestern city of Idlib, sparking hours-long clashes that left 35 troops and rebels dead.

Idlib, which is in Syrian government hands, is the local capital of Idlib province. The October 27 attacks were the most serious there since Syrian rebels took control of scores of villages and towns around it more than two years ago.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP