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Islamic State car bomb attack kills seven north of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed at least seven people north of Baghdad on Wednesday, security and medical sources said, in the second bombing claimed by Islamic State in the district in as many days.

Eleven others were injured when the attacker detonated his car, laden with explosives, at a checkpoint.

Islamic State, which regularly carries out such bombings in the capital and other parts of Iraq, where it seized swathes of territory in 2014, said in an online statement it had targeted the army.

A similar attack in Rashidiya on Tuesday, also claimed by the Sunni Islamist group, killed nine people.

A suicide bombing in the central Karrada district on July 3, claimed by Islamic State, killed at least 292, making it one of the worst among the hundreds of such attacks carried out in Iraq since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein 13 years ago.

It prompted a public outcry in Baghdad, with residents blaming the government for not protecting the capital.

Islamic State has been turning increasingly to suicide bombings, which U.S. and Iraqi officials have touted as proof that battlefield setbacks are weakening the jihadists.

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In a U.S.-backed offensive, the Iraqi army has recaptured the cities of Ramadi and Falluja from Islamic State in recent months. The government said Falluja had been a launchpad for the group’s Baghdad suicide bombings.

Further north, Iraqi forces have taken back Qayara airbase, which they will use as a staging ground for the main push on Mosul, the largest city under Islamic State control, some 60 km (40 miles) away.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to retake the city by year-end, though some question whether the military will be ready in time.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Monday announced the dispatch of 560 additional soldiers to Iraq, most of whom will work from Qayara to assist the Iraqi thrust towards Mosul.

Abadi met in Baghdad on Wednesday, with the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, General Joseph Votel, to discuss preparations for the Mosul offensive, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Reporting by Kareem Raheem; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Andrew Roche and Alison Williams