Spanish club Real Madrid have announced that their team will wear black arm bands in solidarity with the casualties in the recent terrorist attack in Baghdad.
The horrific incident took place in a café which belonged to the supporters of the Los Blancos, where at least 16 people were killed and 30 were left wounded.
In a statement on their website, the 10-time European champions shared solidarity with the families of those who lost their lives in Friday’s attack.
“Real Madrid profoundly laments the terrible attack today in Iraq, which has ended the life of 16 members of a Madrid fan club and that injured more than 20,” the statement said.
“The club expresses its total sadness and offers its thoughts and condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Real Madrid extends its solidarity to the people of Iraq, that suffers the injustice of extremist violence,” it added.
“The Real Madrid players will wear a symbolic black armband as a sign of mourning and respect, because football and sports will always be places of meeting, harmony and peace which no savage terrorism will overcome,” the statement continued, concluding that “Madrid fans around the world weep today for its fans, who will never be forgotten.”
Officials said the gunmen were from the Islamic State (IS) group, which claimed the attack in an online statement.
“A group of armed men from Daesh (an Arabic acronym for IS) disguised in security forces uniforms attacked a cafe in Balad at around midnight, using grenades and gunfire,” Ammar Hekmat al-Baldawi, a deputy governor of Salaheddin province, told media.
“They fled to a nearby farming area. They blew themselves up when the security forces and some residents chased them and got close,” he said.
Baldawi said the attack took at place around midnight and that the hunt for some of the attackers was ongoing.
“There were five or six attackers four of them blew themselves up. The hunt is not over because we think there could be up to two of them still on the run,” he said.
He said 16 people were killed, including several members of the police and the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary organisation that includes most Shiite militias.
The modus operandi was a departure from the suicide car bombings IS has used as its main tactic to inflict maximum casualties in Shiite towns and cities.
Balad is a large town 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Baghdad. Its population is predominantly Shiite but it is surrounded by many Sunni-dominated rural areas.
A police lieutenant colonel who declined to give his name said the shooting claimed 12 lives, and added that four other people, two police and two members of Hashed forces, were killed later when one attacker detonated his suicide belt.
A doctor at Balad hospital gave the same toll.
The Spanish foreign ministry issued a statement condemning “in the strongest terms the terrorist attack carried out today against a Real Madrid supporters club”.
“This is a particularly heinous act because the aim of the terrorists were civilians who gathered for the sole purpose of following a sporting event,” the statement said.
The president of the Spanish Football League, Javier Tebas, also reacted by saying “football continues to be a target of terror”.
In its statement posted on social media, IS said a commando of three jihadists stormed a gathering of Hashed members, shooting several dead, before one of them blew himself up as rescue services tried to evacuate the wounded.
It said the two other attackers killed several others when they detonated their explosive belts.
Real Madrid, who are placed second on the league table, just a point behind leaders Barcelona, will play their final league match on Saturday against Deportivo La Coruna.