Five attackers armed with suicide vests, rifles and grenades killed 18 people at a wedding party in the oasis town of Ain al-Tamer in Iraq, local officials said Monday. Ain al-Tamer is 50 kilometres west of Karbala, a city of great religious significance to Shia Muslims.
Officials said the attackers started opening fire in a neighbourhood of Ain al-Tamer around 1830 GMT on Sunday.
"They were carrying Kalashnikovs, hand grenades. One of them blew himself up and the others were killed by the security forces," the head of the Central Euphrates operations command, Qais Khalaf, said.
A member of the local council and a source at the provincial health directorate confirmed the death toll in the attack, which took place late on Sunday, and said at least 26 people were also wounded.
DAESH, a designated terrorist organisation, claimed responsibility for the attack, said the militants' Amaq news agency on Monday.
"Dozens were killed and wounded after four fighters from the Islamic State attacked a gathering of Shites in Ain al-Tamer, south west of Karbala," the statement said, contradicting the local officials' account of five attackers.
A former mayor of Ain al-Tamer told AFP the attackers started spraying bullets at a nearby wedding party.
“The attack kicked off as people were attending a wedding party in the neighbourhood. Several among the dead and wounded were at the party,” said Mahfouz al-Tamimi, who is now a Karbala provincial council member.
At least five members of one family died in the attack, according to a health official from Karbala province.
"The five terrorists were carrying lots of weapons and one of them blew himself up in the midst of our citizens," said Farhan Jassem Mohammed, from the local council.
The military commanders said the attackers came from the Anbar desert to the west.
Iraq's security forces have for months been battling DAESH in Anbar which is overwhelmingly Sunni and has long been a haven for extremists. Security forces scored key victories in the capital Ramadi and Fallujah earlier in 2016.
DAESH recently lost control of an area in Anbar called Jazirat al-Khaldiyeh, a key crossroads that the terrorist group used to move members and supplies between fronts since they seized large parts of Iraq in 2014.