Middle East

Iraq crisis: Baghdad Shia mosque hit by suicide attack

Iraqi Army soldiers search youths amid tight security during Eid al-Adha celebrations in Baghdad, October 6 Image copyright AP
Image caption Iraqi forces are battling Sunni militants across the country

A suicide attacker has killed at least 18 people at a Shia mosque in Iraq, the latest in a spate of similar bombings.

The attacker blew himself up in a crowd gathered for a funeral in western Baghdad's affluent Harthiyah area.

Dozens have been killed in similar attacks in recent weeks that have been widely blamed on Islamic State (IS).

IS militants, who control territory straddling Syria and Iraq, were engaged in battles with Kurdish fighters around the Syrian town of Kobane all weekend.

Earlier this week, the Kurds in Kobane said they had beaten back the Islamists.

But IS apparently launched a renewed effort to retake the town over the weekend.

Kurdish commanders said they had again repulsed the Islamists, thanks to help from US air strikes.

IS ambush

And Reuters news agency reported that the Iraqi army had launched an operation to retake the city of Baiji, near Iraq's biggest oil refinery.

However, the operation had to be aborted after a military vehicle reportedly exploded as part of an ambush by IS that killed four soldiers.

"The attacker surprised our forces as he was driving a military armoured vehicle. We thought it was our vehicle," an army officer told Reuters.

IS has caused chaos across the region, forcing many thousands to flee from their homes and cracking down on anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of Islam.

The US is leading a coalition of countries providing air power and technical support to Iraq's forces.

Australia, one of the biggest contributors to the coalition, announced earlier that a 200-strong special forces group could now be deployed in Iraq after a legal wrangle was resolved.

In addition, the US is also carrying out air strikes over Syria - although this is controversial because the Syrian government has not given permission.