A SUICIDE bomber has claimed the life of one of Afghanistan’s most renowned anti-Taliban police commanders and narrowly missed killing a senior NATO commander.
Two German soldiers were also among six people killed in the bombing at a provincial governor’s office.
The attacker struck in Taloqan, capital of Takhar province, soon after a meeting regarding security had finished. The Taliban claimed responsibility in what was their latest example of high-profile target selection.
The slain police chief, General Mohammed Daoud Daoud, was a key figure in Afghanistan’s recent history. A former military commander of Ahmad Shah Massoud’s Northern Alliance, he oversaw the siege of Kunduz, the final major battle of the US-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks in 2001.
A former deputy interior minister, when he was the country’s top counter-narcotics official, General Daoud had accused the Taliban of profiting from the opium trade by forging an alliance with drug smugglers and taxing farmers.
He also served at one point as governor of Takhar, reportedly at the request of the British, who considered him the corruption-plagued nation’s cleanest governor.
The commander of NATO forces for northern Afghanistan, German general Markus Kneip, survived the attack, suffering slight injuries, said German defence minister Thomas de Maiziere.
A provincial government spokesman said four Afghans, including General Daoud, were killed and that the governor Abdul Jabar Taqwa was wounded.
Qutbuddin Kamal, a senior aide to the governor, said: “At the end of the meeting, when we wanted to leave, a suicide bomber waiting in the corridor blew himself up.”
Reports that the bomber was wearing military uniform could not be verified.
According to Zemarai Bashary, spokesman for the interior ministry, 12 people were wounded in the attack.
General Daoud, a member of the Afghan mujahedeen who fought against occupying Soviet troops, was appointed chief of police for northern Afghanistan last year.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the militants, who have been waging an insurgency since their ouster from power almost a decade ago, had conducted the bombing.
“One of our mujahedeen carried out the attack inside the Takhar governor’s complex during a meeting about security,” he said.
“Most (of the participants) were killed, including General Daoud Daoud, who was chairing the meeting, the chief of police (for Takhar province)” and German and American soldiers, he added.
Takhar is normally a relatively quiet part of the insurgency-wracked country, although earlier this month 12 people were killed in Taloqan when police opened fire on 2,000 demonstrators protesting against a NATO raid.
General Daoud’s killing comes two months before international troops are due to start handing over control of security to local forces and withdraw from the country, a process due to be completed by 2014.
The past week has seen a series of similar suicide attacks or bombings. Eight US soldiers were killed on Thursday in two successive blasts in the southern city of Kandahar, the spiritual hub of the Taliban, in one of the worst such incidents in months.