Bombing of Afghan mosque kills 20

A BOMB has torn through an Afghan mosque killing an outspoken governor and 19 other people in the latest attack reflecting growing violence in the north of the country.

Mohammad Omar, who was governor of Kunduz province, one of the parts of northern Afghanistan most troubled by Taliban insurgents, was killed by the bomb in the town of Taluqan.

“We have 20 people martyred and 15 others injured. The dead include the governor,” interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP, updating an initial death toll of 15 given by police.

Authorities were investigating whether the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber or a planted device, the spokesman said.

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, suspicion fell on Islamist groups fighting the Western-backed Afghan government for the last nine years. Omar had repeatedly warned that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were expanding in Kunduz and had called for security reinforcements.”A number of our countrymen have been killed and injured,” said Sayed Mohammad Tawhidi, spokesman for the government in Takhar province – Omar’s home region and the place where the attack took place.”

The governor of Kunduz, Mr Mohammad Omar, was unfortunately among the dead,” he told AFP, unable to give an exact death toll.Mohammad Hassan Baseej, a doctor at the local hospital, said 33 people were admitted with injuries after the attack.Violence has increased in recent years in the north, which was once considered relatively peaceful compared to Taliban flashpoints in the east and south of the country.

More than 152,000 US-led NATO troops are deployed in Afghanistan, focused primarily on the south, trying to reverse the Taliban insurrection and shore up the government of President Hamid Karzai.NATO lost three soldiers in attacks on Friday, bringing the number of foreign troops killed to 567 so far this year — already the deadliest on record since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

In eastern Afghanistan, police said NATO helicopters had killed six community police on Friday. The military said it was sending a team to investigate. Dozens of Afghans demonstrated in the eastern city of Khost alleging Western military helicopters killed the officers. Police sought to calm their anger. A unit of community police, a militia-style force recently launched to fight Taliban insurgents in remote villages, opened fire on a NATO helicopter, Khost provincial police chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai told the crowd.

“The helicopter returned and dropped bombs on them and killed six Arbakis (community police),” he added.

From its headquarters in Kabul the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said its helicopters killed five men armed with weapons. “The ISAF helicopters identified a group of individuals with weapons moving from a previously identified enemy position near Sinzai Kalay village.

“As a result of this operation, ISAF is aware of civilian casualty allegations and ISAF Joint Command is sending a joint incident assessment team to look into those allegations.” Friendly fire incidents and the deaths of civilians during foreign military operations are incendiary issues in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are waging a nine-year uprising against the Western-backed government.

The insurgency was launched months after the Taliban fell from power and has gathered pace every year since 2001.  Mr Karzai on Thursday inaugurated a peace council charged with brokering an end to the war, amid mounting reports of secret peace talks.

The Taliban has said publicly it will not enter into dialogue with the government until all foreign troops leave the country and on Thursday – the ninth anniversary of the conflict – announced its jihad was as strong as ever.

In Washington, a new Senate report said US funds for private security contractors have flowed to warlords and Taliban insurgents, undermining the war effort and fueling corruption in Afghanistan.

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