An ISIS terrorist on Sunday detonated an explosive-laden fuel truck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at a security checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing at least 47 people, officials said, in the most deadly car bomb attack in Iraq this year.
“When I got to the scene, there were people whose clothes were still on fire, they were screaming,” a nearby driver, Hamza Kadhem, told AFP.
ISIS claimed credit for the suicide attack on a news website that supports the group, Reuters reported.
“A martyr’s operation with a truck bomb hit the Babylon Ruins checkpoint at the entrance of the city of Hilla, killing and wounding dozens,” the statement on the Amaq news agency website said.
The capital of Babylon province, Hilla is a predominantly Shi’ite region, making it a prime target for Sunni ISIS. Hilla lies about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
Sunday’s attack was the largest attack in the province to date, Reuters reported, citing the head of the Provincial Security Committee, Falah al-Radhi.
“The checkpoint, the nearby police station were destroyed as well as some houses and dozens of cars,” al-Radhi said.
The aftermath of the explosion was complete chaos, according to witnesses, including an AFP photographer who said there was almost nothing left of the checkpoint. He also described a man pleading with rescuers and journalists to help him free the body of his baby from under debris.
“My car windows just shattered with the blast,” Mohammed Jamal told AFP. Jamal was sitting in traffic when the blast ripped through the checkpoint.
“After that, I can’t remember much, I was lost in this chaos and found myself at Hilla hospital, I’m not sure how,” he said.
The Hilla checkpoint was also the scene of a March 2014 suicide bombing that killed 50 people and wounded more than 150.
Iraq has seen a spike in violence in the past month with suicide attacks in and outside Baghdad, all claimed by ISIS, killing more than 170 people.
ISIS controls large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria. According to United Nations figures, at least 670 Iraqis were killed last month due to ongoing violence, of whom about two-thirds were civilians.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.