MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers detonated vests packed with explosives in a cafe in a town near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, killing 21 people, a health official said, the latest attack in a restive region.
There has been a series of high-profile bombings in and around Mosul in the past fortnight and the U.S. military said on Tuesday that a resilient al Qaeda had set off a string of deadly blasts.
Thursday’s attack took place in Sinjar, 390 km (240 miles) northwest of Baghdad, a town whose inhabitants are members of a pre-Islamic Kurdish sect called Yazidis who live in northern Iraq and Syria.
An attack on the Yazidi community two years ago was one of the deadliest bomb attacks in Iraq since the start of 2007, killing and wounding nearly 800 people.
Bombings and shootings are reported almost daily in and around Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh, where insurgents have exploited disputes between Arabs and Kurds over territory and oil to remain effective.
A lack of coordination between Kurdish and Arab officials has made it easier for them to operate. Insurgents have also sought refuge in remote mountainous areas around Mosul, eluding capture by security forces.
The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks that cast doubt on Iraq’s ability to defend itself against insurgents before a U.S. withdrawal from the country by the end of 2011.
This week two truck bombs flattened some 40 homes in the mostly Shi’ite village of Khazna near Mosul, killing 30 people.
No group has taken responsibility for recent attacks, but they are probably aimed at inflaming tension between Iraq’s Arab majority and ethnic Kurd minority. They could also be aimed at undermining the credibility of the Shi’ite Arab-led government.
A feud between the Arab-led government in Baghdad and the largely autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in north Iraq has come dangerously close to all-out war.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday it was “very nervous” about Kurd-Arab tensions, which U.S. officials describe as the greatest threat to Iraqi stability.
“These terrorist operations are carried out by al Qaeda and other groups who do not want to see stability in this area,” said Sinjar mayor Dakhil Hassoun.
Kurds see parts of majority Arab Nineveh and other areas in northern Iraq as belonging to an ancient homeland and want them included in Kurdistan, their semi-autonomous northern enclave.
Writing by Yara Bayoumy, editing by Michael Roddy