BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber attacked pilgrims north of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 17 people, officials and a survivor of the blast said.

The attack in the Taji area, which targeted a tent serving refreshments to pilgrims, also wounded at least 35 people. "We were distributing food, fruit and tea to the pilgrims who were walking to Samarra, and a suicide (bomber) blew himself up," Sajjad, 25, said at a Baghdad hospital where his brother Mustafa was being treated for shrapnel wounds. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State group has claimed the killing of a senior Iranian officer advising Iraqi forces in their fight against the militants, in posts on militant Internet forums on Monday. Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Sunday announced the death of Brigadier General Hamid Taghavi, who had been training the army and Iraqi volunteers in the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

One militant forum posted an image of the officer standing next to three others, with a red circle around his head and the caption: "A photo of the miscreant Hamid Taghavi who was killed by the men of IS in the region of Samarra." Another image on the forum purportedly showed the body of the Iranian officer. IS has not said how Taghavi died, but his funeral was held in Tehran on Monday in the presence of several senior officials.

Meanwhile, a French-Japanese couple who planned to visit areas controlled by the Islamic State (IS) militant group went missing after leaving Tokyo last month, reports and a source said Monday. The Algerian-French husband and his Japanese wife, both Muslims in their 20s, had told Japanese officials they wanted to travel to the region to engage in "humanitarian assistance" but denied they would take part in any fighting.

Officials from both the Japanese and French governments - who initially obtained details about the plan from Japanese security authorities - tried in vain to persuade the couple not to travel to the region, said a source familiar with the situation.