BAGHDAD — Iraqi troops on Thursday drove Islamic State militants from three more neighborhoods in the northern city of Mosul, a commander said, as a bomb south of Baghdad killed at least 56 people, including 20 Iranian pilgrims.
The neighborhoods are all east of the Tigris River, where most of the fighting has taken place since the government's campaign to liberate the city began last month. A U.S.-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes to support the troops.
Also on Thursday, the Iraqi army rounded up scores of Iraqi male residents in the Gogjali neighborhood of Mosul and urged them to come out with information of any Islamic State members among them. An Iraqi officer addressed the group (pictured above), demanding to know the whereabouts of alleged IS militants who opened fire on troops a few days earlier.
Hospital and police officials said the bombing, at a gas station near the town of Hilla, wounded another 45 people. They said it appeared to have targeted a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims heading home after taking part in a major Shiite religious observance in the holy city of Karbala. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
The Islamic State group, which often targets Iraq's Shiite majority, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Sunni extremists have continued to stage attacks across the country despite the heavy fighting in Mosul, which fell to IS in the summer of 2014.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi meanwhile flew to an airstrip outside the town of Tal Afar, to the west of Mosul, on a previously unannounced visit on Thursday, according to footage aired by the state-owned Iraqiya television network. The airstrip was seized from IS by state-sanctioned Shiite militiamen earlier this week.