Iraq vs ISIS
An Iraqi soldier takes part in a military operation on the outskirts of Makhmour, south of Mosul, Friday, March 25, 2016. While the army prepares for the battle of Mosul against ISIS in the north, an Islamic State suicide bomber struck south of Baghdad Friday. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

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 the Islamic State group — went off.

The blast in Iskandariya, a mixed Sunni and Shiite Muslim town 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the capital, happened around 7:15 p.m. (12:15 EDT) 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 Sunni extremist group.

At least 60 people were killed earlier this month in an attack claimed by Islamic State 80 km (50 miles) 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.