Shia Muslim pilgrims
Shia Muslim pilgrims walk to the holy city of Kerbala, ahead of the holy ritual of Arbaeen Reuters

As many as 80 people, many of them Shia pilgrims, have been killed in an Islamic State (Isis) truck bomb attack at a petrol station as they travelled to the holy city of Karbala on 24 November.

The massive explosion took place near the village of Shomali, some 60 miles (100km) south of Baghdad. The Associated Press reported at least ten of those killed in the blast were Iranain nationals who had travelled with other Shia pilgrims and were returning from Arbaeen celebrations.

As part of the holy festival, hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims walk to Karbala in reverence to the Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson. Each year the faithful travel to the shrine of the Shia leader during the 40-day mourning period of his death.

Militant group IS has claimed responsibility for the attack through its propaganda outlet Amaq, which styles itself as a news agency. It said as many as 200 had been wounded and injured in the attack. However, the group regularly exaggerates the casualties caused by its attacks.

As the Iraqi government, backed by the United States, continues its assault on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, the group has carried out a number of suicide attacks across the country in attempts to divert attention and government military resources away from the city.

As the assault on Mosul enters its second month, the Iraqi military announced it had retaken three key neighborhoods in the east of the city and were expanding their foothold in the densely populated district of Zohour.

On 14 November, six civilians were killed in Karbala as suicide bombers targeted Shia pilgrims Only one of the six suicide bombers who infiltrated the city was able to detonate his suicide belt after the five other attackers were killed by security forces.

The Iraqi military said the sixth bomber broke into a house and blew himself up after he was unable to reach the shrine. As well as the six civilians killed in the blast, a further six more were injured

Battle for Mosul: Intense fighting sees families fleeing Reuters