A powerful blast ripped through the funeral yesterday of an Afghan provincial governor who was killed in a suicide attack a day earlier, causing casualties, a correspondent said.
The explosion happened in Hisarak village in the eastern province of Khost as several Afghan ministers and MPs attended the funeral of Hakim Taniwal, late governor of neighboring Paktia province, the correspondent said.
At least four policemen and one civilian could be seen lying on the ground after the blast, witness Bakhti Gul said.
"Just before they started to bury the body a suicide blast took place," he said.
Officials could offer no further details.
Taniwal died on Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up while pretending to greet him outside the gates of the governor's office in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province.
The Taliban movement, blamed for a spiraling insurgency in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Taniwal, in his 60s, was a former sociology professor who spent about 20 years in exile in Melbourne, Australia and returned after the Taliban were ousted by US-led and Afghan resistance forces.
He also served as a minister in Karzai's government and as governor of Khost province, which neighbors Paktia.
In the south, NATO said on Sunday it had killed at least 94 Taliban fighters in airstrikes and ground attacks, pushing the reported toll from a nine-day counterinsurgency operation past 420. A top local official said the battle was winding down, and residents said hundreds of militants had fled the area.
The wave of violence, on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the US, has cast a grim shadow over Afghanistan. The insurgency-wracked country is locked into its worst bout of fighting since the US-led ouster of the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.
The US military, meanwhile, said that a suicide bombing cell was operating in Kabul, with the aim of targeting foreign troops, another sign that Afghan insurgents have adopted some of the terror tactics used in Iraq and are expanding their operations beyond the volatile south and east.
The warning came two days after a car bomber rammed into a US army convoy near the US Embassy, killing 16 people, including two US soldiers, the worst such attack in the capital. Four days earlier, another suicide bomber in Kabul hit a British military convoy, killing one soldier and four Afghans.
"This cell is alive and working and remains very much a threat," Colonel Tom Collins, the chief US spokesman, told a news conference in Kabul.
Collins said that the coalition had had intelligence that a bomber was in the city before Friday's attack, but lacked a description of the attacker or the vehicle he was using.
In the south, where NATO says its Operation Medusa has killed more than 420 Taliban near Kandahar city since Sept. 2, residents said that hundreds of Taliban had fled the area. Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid said the fighting was nearing a close and Taliban militants were in flight.
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