BAGHDAD - Two bombs that exploded in swift succession killed 14 people Wednesday near a crowded restaurant in a mid-sized city in Iraq’s north, officials said.
Officials said the blasts may indicate that the town of Tal Afar, a hotbed of insurgency during the years that Iraq teetered on the edge of civil war, may again be experiencing an influx of militants due to the uprising in neighboring Syria.
Foreign volunteers coming to join the Iraqi insurgency once passed through the town en route from Syria to the northern Iraqi crossroads city of Mosul. Now, Iraqi fighters are thought to be heading in the other direction, traveling to aid Syria’s largely Sunni insurgents in their battle against a regime in Damascus dominated by a Shi’ite offshoot sect.
The mayor of Tal Afar, Abdul Aal Abbas al-Obedi, said a car parked outside a popular downtown restaurant exploded in the early afternoon. As people rushed to the scene to help, a suicide bomber in the crowd detonated his explosives belt, Obedi said.
Obedi and local politician Qusai Abbas said 14 people were killed in the mixed Arab-Turkomen city about 90 miles east of the Syrian border and 260 miles northwest of Baghdad. Both Shi’ites and Sunnis live in the city.
“The blasts of today turn our memories backward to the previous years of explosions, and return our minds to the violence and sectarian displacement of the people of Tal Afar then,’’ said Abbas, a member of the council for Ninevah Province, in which the city is located.