ISIS bombings, mortar fire and clashes kill 22 in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, clashes and mortar fire killed at least 22 people in Iraq on Monday (April 4), security and medical officials said.

The violence, which hit four different provinces, also wounded more than 70 people, the sources said.

In the deadliest blast, a suicide bomber struck a street in the southern port city of Basra, killing five people and wounding 10.

The ISIS group, "after the losses it suffered in western areas, is seeking to move the battle to the southern areas," where many of the forces fighting the militants are from, Basra Governor Majid al-Nasrawi told journalists.

ISIS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and training have since regained significant ground, most recently in the western province of Anbar.

AFP journalists saw three burned bodies at the scene of the Basra attack - two still inside vehicles, and a third on a stretcher.

The blast set vehicles alight and damaged buildings in the area, one of the journalists said.

Another suicide bomber struck a joint police and army checkpoint in north Baghdad, while a third attacked pro-government paramilitaries in Mishahada, north of the capital, and a fourth hit militiamen in a restaurant south of the city of Nasiriyah.

ISIS issued statements claiming responsibility for the blasts. The group frequently carries out suicide bombings in Iraq targeting security forces and civilians.

ISIS also launched an attack in the Baghdadi area in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, sparking clashes in which five members of pro-government forces were killed and at least seven wounded.

And mortar fire struck houses in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding at least seven.

Like the Basra governor, a US army officer said that as IS loses territory, it is increasingly turning to bombings in a bid to stay relevant.

The group is "losing its prominence on the battlefield, and so what we've kinda seen recently is a lot more what we call high profile attacks," Captain Chance McCraw told journalists in Baghdad.

The militants are seeking "to still stay relevant in the media, because that's how they get their message out," McCraw said.

A suicide bomber blew himself up following a football tournament south of Baghdad last month, killing more than 30 people.

And more than 45 people died in a suicide truck bombing at a checkpoint earlier in March.