A suicide car bombing claimed by Islamic State killed 21 people including a group of women and children packed into a minibus outside an Iraqi town on Monday morning, police and hospital sources said.

 

Iraqi policeman walks by damaged cars to inspect the site

 

A police officer at the scene said most of the victims died inside their vehicles while waiting at a checkpoint to enter Khalis, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

 

“We still have charred bodies inside many vehicles including a minibus packed with women and children,” the police captain said, requesting anonymity.

 

Amaq, a news agency that supports Islamic State, said the attack had targeted Iraqi troops in Khalis, which is located in the eastern province of Diyala, a mixed Sunni-Shi’ite Muslim area bordering Iran.

 

Iraq declared victory over the Sunni insurgents in Diyala more than a year ago, but the militants remain active despite holding no significant territory there. IslamicState has stepped up attacks across the country even as it incurs battlefield setbacks in the country’s north and west.