‘It was a children’s soccer game. Of course he knew he was going to kill children.’

‘It was a children’s soccer game. Of course he knew he was going to kill children.’

The suicide bomber who blew up a youth soccer match late last month left barely a dent in the hard, dry earth, and only a faint scorch on a concrete wall nearby.

But he gouged a chasm of grief in the heart of the small community that lost more than two dozen of its sons in a single moment, at 6:15 on the evening of March 25.

A total of 43 people died in the bombing at the game, according to figures provided by the local government. Of those, 29 were boys younger than 17 who had either been participating in the match or watching their friends play.

The bomber also was a teenager, no more than 15 or 16 years old, judging by the picture of him released by the Islamic State, which asserted responsibility for the bombing, and the accounts of those who saw him at the match. The militants’ statement said the target was a gathering of members of the Shiite paramilitary group known as Hashd al-Shaabi, and the local government said two members of a militia were among the adults who died.

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