Local hospital officials put the number of injured at 125.

"Many people were gathered to watch the match," Hussein Nashad, who witnessed the attack, told the AFP news agency. "We heard a loud explosion and the people behind me shielded me from the shrapnel.

"I ran away, but then I heard someone shout 'Allahu-akbar' [God is greatest], and then there was another explosion," he said, speaking from hospital where he was being treated for shock.

'Dark days'

Many of the wounded were taken by ambulance to Dahuk, 95km away, because local hospitals were unable to cope with the influx of wounded spectators.

Tal Afar is a predominantly Shia Turkomen town and has been a regular target for suicide bombers in the past.

Speaking from Baghdad, Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr said that the area is a former al-Qaeda stronghold.

"There was no claim of responsibility for the Tal Afar attack but authorities are pointing the finger at al-Qaeda," she said.  

Friday's attacks follow blasts in the city last October and July that left dozens of people dead. In March 2007, 152 people were killed when truck bombs targeted markets in the town.

The violence came as the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq said that a campaign of attacks against the country's Shia community was under way, warning the community that "dark days soaked with blood" lay ahead.

Al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman was named as the group's new 'minister of war' earlier on Friday.

The bombing comes as Iraq reels from a series of co-ordinated attacks carried out in 10 cities on Monday which left 119 people dead.  

There are fears that the political deadlock following Iraq's inconclusive election two months ago is fuelling a new wave of sectarian violence.