ISIS has carried out a string of attacks centering on a popular restaurant on Iraq’s Highway 1, in Nasiriyah. The restaurant is popular with Shi’ite pilgrims and was crowded when gunmen disguised as Shi’te militia burst in shooting, followed by a car bombing outside. ISIS then also bombed a nearby checkpoint.
The death toll has been steadily rising through the day, and provincial health officials say 83 people have been killed, mostly inside the restaurant. Another 93 are reported injured, many of them severely so, meaning the toll could yet rise further.
Highway 1 is the primary route through which Shi’ite pilgrims visit the holy sites in southern Iraq, and the targeting of those pilgrims has been popular with Islamist groups for many years now. Pilgrimages, and by extension attacks, usually start picking up around Ashura, a major holiday, which occurs at the end of this month.
That Highway 1 is such a common target also means it is among the most heavily secured stretches in all of Iraq, though time and again ISIS has proven that it retains the capacity to carry out attacks there seemingly at will. The