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Suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber kills 20 in mosque attack in Afghanistan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Afghan child who was injured by a bomb blast in a mosque (AP)


An Afghan child who was injured by a bomb blast in a mosque (AP)

An Afghan child who was injured by a bomb blast in a mosque (AP)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) – A suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber walked into a mosque during the funeral of a Muslim cleric and blew himself up Wednesday, killing 20 people, including Kabul”s police chief, and wounding 42 others.

The attack was the deadliest in Afghanistan since a surge in violence began in March, casting doubt on U.S. claims that it is stabilizing the country and reinforcing fears that militants here are copying the tactics of those in Iraq.

Hundreds of mourners were crowded inside the mosque for the funeral of Mullah Abdul Fayaz in the main southern city of Kandahar when the bomber struck.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the assault as an &#34act of cowardice by the enemies of Islam and the enemies of the peace of Afghan people&#34 and ordered a high-level investigation.

Parts of the bomber”s body were found and Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai said he belonged to Osama bin Laden”s terrorist network.

&#34The attacker was a member of al-Qaida. We have found documents on his body that show he was an Arab,&#34 Sherzai said. &#34We had an intelligence report that Arab al-Qaida teams had entered Afghanistan and had been planning terrorist attacks.&#34

A purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, said in a telephone call to The Associated Press that the rebels were not responsible for the bombing. Hakimi often calls news organizations, usually to claim responsibility for attacks on behalf of the former regime. His information has sometimes proven untrue or exaggerated, and his exact tie to the rebel leadership is not clear.

Among those killed Wednesday was Kabul police chief Gen. Akram Khakrezwal, two of his nephews and six of his bodyguards, Sherzai said. The attacker detonated the explosives after coming close to the police commander, but it was not clear if he was targeted, said Interior Ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal.

Khakrezwal, a Karzai supporter, was police chief in the capital for two months. Prior to that, he had been police commander in a northern city and for Kandahar.

Many local leaders had been expected to attend the funeral of Fayaz, the top Muslim leader in the province.

Fayaz, also a supporter of Karzai, was shot to death in Kandahar on Sunday by suspected Taliban gunmen, a week after he led a call for people not to support the rebels.

Kandahar was a stronghold of the Taliban regime that was ousted from power in late 2001 by U.S.-led forces for harbouring bin Laden.

Col. James Yonts, the U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, condemned the blast, calling it an &#34atrocious act of violence upon innocent civilians and a mosque.&#34

While Sherzai put the casualty toll at 20 dead and 42 wounded, Kandahar Hospital director Mohammed Hashim Alokozai said 72 were injured, four gravely.

Deputy police chief Gen. Salim Khan said the explosion occurred near where people remove their shoes before praying.

&#34I was knocked unconscious by the blast. When I woke up, so many people were killed or wounded. People were running around, some were lying on the ground crying. Dead bodies were everywhere,&#34 said Nanai Agha, a mourner who was behind a wall in the mosque when the bomb exploded.

In a second attack Wednesday, a bomb exploded on a bridge west of Kandahar as a group of Afghan explosives experts working on a Japanese-funded demining project were driving over it, killing two of them and wounding five, said Patrick Fruchet, spokesman for the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan.

Although the insurgents have stepped up their offensive, they have also suffered heavy casualties, losing about 200 men since March, following a winter lull in the fighting, according to American and Afghan officials.

Tension has been high in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan after deadly anti-American riots sparked by a news report – later retracted – that interrogators at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defiled the Qur”an.

Afghan security personnel gather outside a mosque after a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar (AFP)

Afghan security personnel gather outside a mosque after a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar (AFP)

A guard from the Afghan National Army stands guard at a mosque after a bomb blast (AP)

A guard from the Afghan National Army stands guard at a mosque after a bomb blast (AP)