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Middle East

Deadly blasts rip stadium during football match

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2010-05-14

Militants attacked a football stadium in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar Friday during a match, killing at least eight people and wounding 120 others. A predominantly Shiite town, Tal Afar lies west of Mosul, where Sunni militants remain active.

REUTERS - Insurgents attacked players and spectators at a soccer match on Friday in volatile northern Iraq, killing eight and wounding 120 as al Qaeda warned of "dark days coloured in blood" for the country's Shi'ite majority.

One attacker drove a pick-up truck full of explosives onto the soccer pitch, targeting athletes, while two suicide bombers strolled into the crowd of onlookers, police and witnesses said.

The blasts took place in Tal Afar, a town predominantly inhabited by Shi'ite Turkmen around 60 km (40 miles) west of the violent city of Mosul, where Sunni Islamist insurgents such as al Qaeda remain active.

"There were around 250 people watching the match, mostly out of boredom because there is no entertainment in Tal Afar," said local resident Ali Jaafar.

"Suddenly we saw a pick-up in the middle of the field. The players were suspicious so they ran and as expected it turned out to be a suicide car bomber. The spectators began to run away but two suicide bombers were in the crowd."

Tal Afar has been regularly attacked in the seven years of warfare unleashed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, as insurgents sought to exploit deep divides between minority Kurds in Iraq's north and the country's Arab majority.

Friday's attack on the soccer game came as al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), named a new "war minister" and threatened majority Shi'ites with bloodshed after two of its commanders were killed in May.

Attacks that have left dozens dead since an inconclusive March 7 election were seen as al Qaeda in Iraq's response to the deaths of its leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of the ISI.

The al Qaeda statement, translated by SITE Intelligence Group, identified the new ISI war minister as al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman, who replaced Masri.

Date created : 2010-05-14

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