MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan: A suicide bomber struck outside government buildings in northern Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 14 people including a senior local politician, officials said.
Emergency services rushed to the scene and took the wounded to hospital after the bomber, who was wearing a police uniform, blew himself up in the centre of Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province.
“I collected information from different hospitals and the death toll is 14. Another nine people are wounded,” Zubair Akbary, the provincial public health director, told AFP.
Police said that the bomber, who was on foot, had targeted Rasoul Mohseni, head of Baghlan's provincial council, an elected body in each of Afghanistan's 34 provinces that liaises between residents and the local government.
Also among the dead were seven police guards and several other people who were at the government buildings to speak to Mohseni.
“The suicide bombing was in front of the provincial council building in the city of Pul-e-Khumri,” Sadeq Muradi, Baghlan province's deputy police chief, told AFP.
Khalil Musadeq, the chief of the Pul-e-Khumri hospital, confirmed that at least 11 people, including Mohseni, were killed in the blast.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and blamed the bombing on “enemies of Afghanistan”, a phrase Afghan officials often use to refer to the Taliban, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Baghlan is located in the more peaceful north of Afghanistan but it sees regular attacks by Taliban insurgents. As international troops withdraw from the country, the Taliban has increasingly targeted Afghan politicians, government officials and the security forces.
The insurgents launched their annual “spring offensive” last month vowing to use suicide blasts to inflict maximum casualties and warning Afghans working for President Karzai's regime to distance themselves from the government.
Monday's attack came a day after at least 10 Afghan police were killed in separate incidents.
In one of the incidents, Taliban fighters attacked a security check post in the Muqur district of Ghazni province, killing six police.
Afghan security forces are increasingly on the front line against the insurgents, and suffering heavier casualties, as the 100,000 Nato combat troops prepare to exit by the end of next year.
On Friday, two car bombs exploded in a sprawling housing development in the southern province of Kandahar, killing at least nine people and wounding more than 60.