Suicide bomber kills 26 in attack on anti-IS fighters in Iraq

BAGHDAD: A suicide bomber attacked Sunni fighters opposed to the Islamic State jihadist group as they gathered Wednesday to receive salaries south of Baghdad, killing at least 26 people, officials said.

The attack on the fighters, known as Sahwa, near a military base in the Madain area also wounded at least 56 people.

It was unclear how many of the victims were Sahwa fighters. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but suicide bombings are a tactic almost exclusively employed by Sunni extremists in Iraq, including the Islamic State (IS) group.

IS spearheaded a sweeping militant offensive that has overrun much of Iraq´s Sunni Arab heartland since June.

The Sahwa, or “Awakening” in Arabic, dates back to the height of the US-led war in Iraq, when Sunni tribesmen joined forces with the Americans to battle insurgents including IS´s predecessor organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq.

The Sahwa were key to sharply but temporarily reducing violence, but when Iraq´s government took over responsibility for their salaries they were sometimes paid late or not at all.