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Mon 7 Mar 2016 09:52 AM

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ISIL truck bomb kills at least 60 people south of Baghdad

Escalation in ISIL bombings suggests Iraqi government forces are being stretched thin after recent gains in western and northern provinces

ISIL truck bomb kills at least 60 people south of Baghdad
Iraqi emergency responders clear debris from the site of a truck bomb, that exploded at a crowded checkpoint, in the Iraqi city of Hilla, south of Baghdad on March 6, 2016. The ISIL jihadist group claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bomb blast that killed at least 47 people in the city of Hilla. (AFP/Getty Images)

A truck bomb at an Iraqi checkpoint south of Baghdad killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 70 on Sunday, medical and security officials said, and ISIL claimed responsibility for the blast.

The suicide attack, involving an explosive-laden fuel tanker, is the second deadliest this year after one on Feb. 28 that killed 78 people in Sadr City, a Shi'ite district of Baghdad. This was also claimed by the ultra-hardline Sunni group that controls vast swathes of territory in Iraq and in Syria.

The escalation in ISIL bombings suggests that Iraqi government forces are being stretched thin after their recent gains against the group in the western and northern provinces.

Responsibility for the bombing in Hilla, 117 kilometres (73 miles) south of Baghdad, was claimed in a posting on the website of the Amaq news agency, which supports ISIL.

"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 website said.

Hilla is the capital of Babylon province, a predominantly Shi'ite region with some Sunnis.

"It's the largest bombing in the province to date," Falah al-Radhi, the head of the provincial security committee, told Reuters. "The checkpoint, the nearby police station were destroyed as well as some houses and dozens of cars."

Iraqi emergency responders clear debris from the site of a truck bomb, that exploded at a crowded checkpoint, in the Iraqi city of Hilla, south of Baghdad on March 6, 2016. The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bomb blast that killed at least 47 people in the city of Hilla. (AFP/Getty Images)

A provincial hospital official confirmed the number of casualties, adding that 23 of them were members of the police and other security forces that were manning the check point located at the northern entrance of the city.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to a coalition fighting ISIL, on Saturday told a news conference in Baghdad that ISIL was losing the battle against forces arraigned against it from many sides in Iraq and Syria. He said the focus would turn to stabilising cities seized back from them.

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