ISIS often attacks fellow Muslims who don't support its view of Islam, Mideast expert says
Attack occurred during a soccer ceremony in Iskandariya, a city in central Iraq
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 25 people
The death toll continues to rise after a man wearing a suicide belt walked into an Iraqi soccer stadium and blew himself up.
A crowd had gathered Friday for a ceremony to mark a championship for a popular local soccer team when the bomb exploded, the head of the Babil province security committee, Baydhan al Hamdani, told CNN.
A video posted on YouTube showed soccer players approaching a table holding trophies before an explosion occurred. CNN could not independently authenticate the video.
The attacker struck at al-Shuhadaa stadium in the Babil province city of Iskandariya, roughly 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
ISIS claimed responsibility, according to a statement posted online by supporters.
‘Strongest condemnation’ from the U.N.
The special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Iraq, Jan Kubis, condemned the bombing by “Daesh,” another term for ISIS.
“The evildoers are aiming their wrath at the innocent and vulnerable civilians,” he said. “Today, Daesh committed yet another atrocity, targeting families who were enjoying their weekend attending a football game in their hometown. This abhorrent act deserves the strongest condemnation.”
Kubis urged Iraqis to unite to thwart the terrorists’ goals of inciting sectarian tensions in the country.
The U.S. State Department also spoke out.
“The United States condemns today’s suicide bombing claimed by Daesh … which killed and wounded dozens of Iraqis who had gathered to support a local football game,” said a statement from Elizabeth Trudeau, director of the department’s office of press relations.
Though the attacks in Europe have gained the attention of the West, the bulk of ISIS’ brutal actions – not to mention the vast majority of its active members – are in the Middle East.
‘This is al-Zarqawi 101’
Amanda Rogers, a research fellow at Georgia State University, said the group may launch more terror strikes as the Iraqi army retakes cities from ISIS.
“Given that they are losing their central territory, it would not be unexpected,” Rogers said. “These strikes fit into the broader strategy.”
Rogers said ISIS has long advocated attacks on Muslims who don’t support its rigid interpretation of Islam.
That was a tactic endorsed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, the terror group that evolved into ISIS. Violence against Muslims caused a split between the late leader of al Qaeda central, Osama bin Laden, and al-Zarqawi, who died in 2006.
“What we see with ISIS doing now is an escalation of what we saw al-Zarqawi do, targeting Muslims first and foremost, whether they’re in the refugee community or not,” she said. “This is al-Zarqawi 101 and it’s essentially gone global.”
The city of Iskandariya is no stranger to violence.
It’s located in what coalition forces called “the Triangle of Death” because of heavy fighting that occurred there a decade ago.
CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.