BAGHDAD (AP) – Seven people were killed in a car bomb blast in a former stronghold of the Islamic State group in western Iraq, a security official said on Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Qasem al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press the attacker drove a booby-trapped vehicle into a joint security checkpoint managed by the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Forces at the southern entrance to the town of al-Qaim, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Syrian border.
He said four security forces personnel and three civilians were killed in the blast.
Al-Dulaimi blamed the Islamic State group for the attack, though the group did not immediately claim responsibility. Al-Qaim is a former Islamic State group stronghold in the Anbar province in western Iraq.
A spate of kidnappings and guerrilla style attacks in desert areas in western and central Iraq this summer have stirred security concerns in the country as it seeks to rebuild from its three-year-long war with the militant group.
Iraqi officials declared victory over the jihadists late last year after recapturing Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in a grinding battle supported by the U.S.-led international coalition against IS.
But heavy-handed tactics by the military and the Shiite-dominated PMF, and faltering efforts at reconciliation between the country’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims, has fueled resentment in Sunni Muslim areas that were most affected by the war, and where IS cells are believed to operate.
Millions of Iraqis have not been able to return to their homes, including hundreds of thousands still living in displaced persons camps.
Iraq’s military and the PMF have been using the predominantly Sunni Anbar province as a base of operations against IS in the country’s western desert and for air operations against the group in neighboring Syria.