Suicide bomber kills 26, wounds 71 south of Baghdad

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Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 26 at Iraqi Soccer Match

HILLA, Iraq, March 25 (Reuters) - A suicide attacker detonated an explosive belt in a park outside Baghdad on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 71, said the security head in Babel province where the bomb -- claimed by Islamic State -- went off.

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The blast in Iskandariya, a mixed Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim town 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the capital, happened around 7:15 p.m. (1615 GMT) at the end of an amateur soccer game, said Falah al-Khafaji.

Islamic State militants, who control swathes of territory in Iraq's north and west, were behind the attack, according to Amaq news agency, which is affiliated with the group.

At least 60 people were killed earlier this month in an attack claimed by Islamic State 80 km further south, in Hilla, when an explosives-laden fuel tanker slammed into an Iraqi security checkpoint.

An apparent escalation of large bombings targeting areas outside Islamic State's primary control suggests that Iraqi government forces may be stretched thin after recent gains against the group in the western and northern provinces.

(Reporting by Ali al-Rubaie; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty in Cairo; editing by John Stonestreet)

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