At least 21 people were killed in the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra by the Islamic State group, which claimed it had planted suicide bombers in ambulances. The Samarra attack targeted Shia Muslims, as an ambulance was blown up near the al-Askari mosque. Among those killed several Iranian pilgrims, BBC reported. The attack in Tikrit was so brutal that some of the victims were thrown into a nearby river by the force of the blast after a suicide bomber drover the ambulance into a whole line of vehicles.

Executed leader Saddam Hussein once lived in Tikrit. Earlier in the day, a group of gunmen, also believed to be affiliated to the Islamic State group, had opened fire in a house in the city and killed at least 16 other people. There were conflicting reports on the final tolls.

The attacks come at a time when the Iraqi forces are zeroing in on the city of Mosul, which the militant group has held since 2014. The city is the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in the country, and the international fraternity has express confidence that overpowering them would deal a strong blow to their operations.