ISIS carried out its deadliest attack in Iraq in months Thursday night, killing at least 73 people, including dozens of Iranian pilgrims, in an attack on a gas station on a highway south of Baghdad. At least 65 other people were wounded in the attack, which targeted Shiite pilgrims who had visited the holy city of Karbala, the AP reports. The Guardian and Reuters—which puts the death toll at 100—report that a truck laden with 500 liters of ammonium nitrate exploded at the gas station in the city of Hilla, setting five pilgrim buses alight. In a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, ISIS, which considers all Shiites to be heretics, boasted of killing or wounding 200, including Iranians.
The AP notes that ISIS has stepped up attacks around Iraq in an effort to weaken the offensive to retake Mosul. The previous day, at least 31 people were killed in roughly a dozen bombings in Baghdad. The Guardian reports that around 3 million Iranians are in Iraq this week to mark a holy day in the Shiite calendar, and the Thursday night attack was seen as retaliation for Tehran's anti-ISIS stance. Iran's foreign ministry issued a statement denouncing the "heinous and barbarous crime," believed to be ISIS' deadliest attack on Iranian nationals, and vowing that Tehran will continue to support Iraq in its "relentless fight against terrorism." (A US service member assisting anti-ISIS forces in Syria was killed on Thursday.)