Bloody days as Islamic militants kill dozens in Baghdad and on Tunisia-Libya border

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An Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) jihadist drove a fuel truck laced with explosives into a security checkpoint near Baghdad on March 6, killing at least 47 people.

Meanwhile, in Ben Guerdan near the Libyan border on Monday, militants attacked army and police posts in a raid that killed at least 50 people, including civilians, local officials and residents said.

Authorities closed two border crossings with Libya after the attack and sealed off the nearby beach resort town of Djerba, a popular destination for foreign and local tourists.

“I saw a lot of militants at dawn, they were running with their Kalashnikovs,” Hussein, a resident, told Reuters by telephone. “They said they were Islamic State and they came to target the army and the police.”

Tunisia’s government has feared such spillover attacks from Libya, where Islamic State militants have gained ground.

More than 3,000 Tunisians are said to have joined up with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and other groups in Syria and Iraq. Tunisian security officials say many are returning to join the terrorist organization in Libya.

In Iraq, scores more were injured in the bombing at the crowded checkpoint in the city of Hilla, officials said. It was the third massive bombing in or near Baghdad in the past two weeks.

a truck bomb that exploded at a crowded checkpoint in the Iraqi city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, on March 6, 2016. /Getty Images
Scene of ISIL attack in Hilla, south of Baghdad, on March 6. /Getty Images

“The blast has completely destroyed the checkpoint and its buildings,” Falah al-Khafaji, a senior security official, said, according to The Associated Press. “More than 100 cars have been damaged.”

The dead included 39 civilians. The rest were members of the security forces. The attacker struck shortly after noon when the checkpoint was packed with dozens of cars.

In the past month, ISIL bombings have killed more than 170 people, AP said.

Sources say ISIL is carrying out the bombing campaign in and around Baghdad “to create havoc far from the front battle lines and force government forces to overextend themselves.”

Such attacks “force the government and the militias to look back and reallocate resources and reassess,” Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told AP. The militias, mainly composed of Shiites, fight alongside government forces.

ISIL still controls Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, as well as Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad.