Three Islamic State gunmen burst into a café attended by members of a local Real Madrid football fan club in central Iraq, before going on a rampage through the Shiite city of Balad, 80km north of capital Baghdad.
“A group of Islamic terrorists, from ISIS [Islamic State/IS], came into the café, armed with AK-47s, shooting at random at everyone who was inside,” Ziad Subhan, who heads the local fan organization, told Spanish website AS.
Around 50 fans were in the café, where they often gather late at night to watch live – and sometimes recorded – matches of their favorite team. The group’s Facebook page said that 16 people were killed by the gunfire and 28 more were seriously injured. Police also confirmed the incident, but gave numbers of at least 13 killed and 22 injured.
Local sources said that the gunmen were able to sneak into Balad, which has been near the frontline of the battle between Islamic State and government forces, by passing three checkpoints.
Photographs from the al-Furat Cafe show a poster of Real Madrid icon and current manager Zinedine Zidane, and below a blood-splattered floor, including trails where bleeding victims attempted to crawl away from the shooters.
“They don’t like football, they think it’s anti-Muslim. They just carry out attacks like this. This is a terrible tragedy,” said Subhan, echoing pronouncements previously made by the radical Islamic group itself.