BAGHDAD (AP) — The death toll has risen to more than 80 killed in an Islamic State group-claimed attack in southern Iraq targeting a restaurant frequented by Shiite Muslim pilgrims, Iraqi officials said Friday.
Eighty-four people were killed and 93 people were injured in the attack in Nasiriyah, in Iraq's southern Thi Qar province Thursday evening, according to Provincial Gov. Yahya al-Nassiri. Among them, seven Iranians were killed and 16 wounded.
Al-Nassiri added that the province's director of intelligence was removed and the Interior Ministry called for him to be investigated.
The attack began as a shooting at a checkpoint and restaurant along the main road that connects the province to Baghdad, followed by two suicide bombers, one driving an explosives-laden car.
The spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority condemned the attack Friday calling on Iraq's central government and local leaders "to undertake responsibly and professionally the protection of citizens from terrorists."
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's message was delivered by his representative Sheikh Abdulmehdi al-Karbalai from the holy city of Karbala during Friday prayers.
IS fighters have repeatedly turned to large-scale insurgent attacks following territorial losses. In July Iraqi forces declared victory against IS in Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, a military win that effectively broke the back of the extremists' self-proclaimed caliphate.