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Suicide Bomber Detonates Truck at Day Laborer Pickup in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — A suicide attacker detonated his bomb-filled pickup truck at a known day laborer point Monday in Baghdad, killing at least 22 people, many of whom had clustered around the vehicle seeking work, Iraqi officials said.

The bomber detonated in the middle of a fruit and vegetable market, near a police checkpoint in Baghdad's eastern Sadr City district, wounding as many as 35 people, with the death toll expected to rise, a police officer said.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack Reuters news agency put the death toll at 24 and said 67 people had been injured. The Associated Press cited two unnamed medical officials and said at least 22 were dead.

In addition, Reuters reported that ISIS had blocked a key road north from the capital to Mosul, their last major stronghold in the country.

Image: People gather around a wrecked vehicle
People gather around a wrecked vehicle following a blast, caused by a bomb-laden vehicle, at 55th Square in Sadr Region of Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The attack in Baghdad took place hours after French President Francois Hollande arrived in Iraq. France is part of the U.S.-led international coalition formed in late 2014 to fight ISIS. France has suffered multiple terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS.

During a press conference with Hollande, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the bomber pretended to be a man seeking to hire day laborers; once the laborers gathered around, he detonated the vehicle. Al-Abadi warned that the "terrorists will further try to hit civilians to make up for the losses," they have suffered on the battlefield.

Hollande, during his one-day visit, met with al-Abadi and President Fuad Masum. He was scheduled later to travel to the country's self-governing northern Kurdish region to meet French troops and local officials.

An online statement, ostensibly from the ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the targets were Shiite Muslims. News agencies could not verify the claim, posted on a website often used by the terrorist group, which is made up primarily of Sunni Muslims.

The group also claimed responsibility for Saturday's suicide attack in a central Baghdad market, which killed at least 28 people, and Sunday's suicide bombing at a checkpoint south of Baghdad that killed at least nine.

Late last month, Iraqi authorities started removing some security checkpoints in Baghdad, trying to free up traffic in the city of 6 million people.

Iraqi troops, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, are fighting ISIS in an effort to retake the northern city of Mosul — the biggest ground operation in the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraqi state TV reported that Hollande would discuss increasing support to Iraq and the fight against ISIS.

Image: Iraqis gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's Sadr city
Iraqis gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's Sadr city on Monday. ALI ABBAS / EPA

Since the Mosul operation started Oct. 17, Iraqi forces have seized about a quarter of the city. But ISIS resistance continues to be fierce.

Abadi has said the group will be driven out of the country by April.

Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, is about 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad. While the Syrian city of Raqqa is considered the caliphate's capital, Mosul is the largest city under its control. It is ISIS's last major urban stronghold in Iraq.