HERAT, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – A suicide bomber disguised in a burqa detonated a blast in a bazaar in western Afghanistan on Thursday, killing 18 police and civilians, in the bloodiest suicide attack in weeks, officials said.
Twenty-two people were wounded in the blast, which happened near a police station in the Del Aram district of Farah province. The policemen were inspecting vehicles on the road outside at the time.
“So far, 18 people, including police and civilians, have been killed,” Farah’s governor Rohul Amin told Reuters by phone.
Citing officials near the site, Amin said the bomber was wearing the all-enveloping burqa robe that Afghan women commonly wear.
President Hamid Karzai who has been leading Afghanistan since Taliban’s removal, condemned the attack and said it was “obscene” that the bomber had used a burqa a disguise. “The enemies of Afghanistan, by misusing the women’s veil, put on display their unmanhood,” a palace statement quoted him as saying.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, told Reuters the attack was carried out by a member of the group, which is leading an insurgency against the government and foreign troops. He said the bomber was a man and was not wearing a burqa.
The al Qaeda-backed Taliban largely rely on suicide attacks and roadside blasts in their campaign.
The militants are most active in southern and eastern areas near the border with Pakistan, but have also carried out attacks in several major cities, including the capital Kabul.
Two police vehicles were destroyed in Thursday’s attack, the latest in rising violence in Afghanistan in the past two years, the bloodiest period since the Taliban were driven from power in 2001.
Six of those killed were police, including a senior officer, another provincial official said, adding the rest of the dead were civilians.
U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban’s radical Islamic government after its leadership refused to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
More than 12,000 people have died in violence since 2006, despite the presence of more than 55,000 foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military and nearly 150,000 Afghan security forces.