Twin blasts kill 25 at football game in Iraq

A DOUBLE bomb attack at a football match in northern Iraq, which was unprotected by security forces, has killed 25 people in the second incident this week to cause mass casualties.

The explosion, which also left dozens wounded, occurred in Tal Afar, 380km north of Baghdad. Eyewitnesses said around 250 people were watching the game when the attackers struck and that no police or soldiers were on duty.  “We heard a loud explosion and the people behind me shielded me from the shrapnel,” said spectator Hussein Nashad, 29.  “I ran away, but then I heard someone shout ‘Allahu akbar’ (God is greatest), and then there was another explosion.”

A local police officer said the double blasts were caused by a car bomb followed by a suicide attack.  An interior ministry official said 25 people were killed and 100 wounded. The incident came four days after a devastating series of attacks in five cities blamed on al-Qaeda killed 110 people in the bloodiest violence this year.  About five dozen bombings and shootings shattered a lull in unrest on Monday, as Iraq moved closer to forming a government two months after a general election seen as crucial to US combat troops leaving the country by August 31.

The government pinned the blame for those attacks on al-Qaeda, while Iraq’s deputy interior minister conceded that the nation’s security apparatus was at fault and an inquiry into its shortcomings was underway.

In March 2006, Tal Afar was hailed as a model town by then US president George W Bush, but exactly a year later it witnessed one of the biggest attacks to hit the country.  Some 155 people were killed in a day-long massacre, the deadliest violence to ever strike Tal Afar, when gunmen murdered 70 men in an overnight rampage on March 27 in revenge for bombings that killed 85 people earlier that day.

Friday’s attacks were the deadliest to strike Tal Afar since July 9 last year, when a double suicide attack targeting the home of a police sergeant and his brother killed 35 people and left 61 others wounded.  Meanwhile political wrangling over the outcome of Iraq’s March 7 election rumbled on. A recount of votes in Baghdad yielded no evidence of fraud, Iraq’s electoral commission said.  Tallies from the 12-day process were still to be entered into the commission’s computer system, with results expected on Monday, spokesman Qassim al-Abboudi said.

“We finished the recount of 11,298 ballot boxes and no violations or fraud have been found,” he said.  He added that political parties could still contest the results from the recount, but offered no timetable for the complaints procedure. Electoral authorities began a manual recount of votes in Baghdad, which accounts for 68 seats in Iraq’s 325-member Council of Representatives, on May 3, nearly two months after the election.

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