JALALABAD: A suicide bomber targeted an Afghan government official at a funeral on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens more near the Pakistan border in one of the deadliest attacks of the year.
The local administration said up to 25 people had died and other officials warned the toll could rise after the devastating blast in the remote district of Dur Baba in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
District governor Hamisha Gul was the target and was wounded in the blast.
One official said one of the governor’s sons had been killed in the attack, which happened at around 2:30 pm.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Taliban routinely target officials in their 10-year insurgency aimed at evicting US-led Nato troops and bringing down the Western-backed Afghan government.
Violence has risen in recent months as insurgents look to capitalise on the phased withdrawal of the bulk of 130,000 Western combat troops, due to leave at the end of 2014 and transfer full responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts.
One witness described scenes of horror shortly after the blast.
“I heard a big bang and saw smoke all over the place, then I saw pieces of flesh and people all around me were covered in blood. I don’t know what happened, but it caused a lot of casualties,” he told AFP from a hospital without giving his name.
In Kabul, the interior ministry confirmed 20 deaths and said 50 people were wounded, including the district governor. “Some wounded people are in a critical condition, the toll might rise,” spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told AFP.
Due to the remote location of the attack, casualty reports differed.
“Twenty-five people, including the son of the district governor, have been killed and 30 other people were injured,” said Nangarhar provincial spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, adding that Gul was wounded by the attacker, who came on foot.
Tuesday’s bombing was one of the worst attacks of the year in Afghanistan and comes just weeks after the deadliest assault of 2012, when a group of suicide bombers killed at least 30 people in southwestern Nimroz province, on the border with Iran.
It is not the first time that suicide bombers have attacked funerals in Afghanistan.
On December 25, 2011, 19 people, including an MP, were killed in the northeastern city of Taluqan after a bomber walked into a burial ceremony and detonated explosives strapped to his chest.
Lawmaker Abdulmutalib Baiga, a former anti-Taliban Northern Alliance commander and the former police chief of Kunduz province, died in the Taluqan attack. He was working with opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah in the newly-established National Coalition of Afghanistan.
The United Nations says 1,145 civilians were killed and 1,954 wounded in the war in the first six months of this year, with the world body blaming 80 per cent of the deaths on insurgents.