KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomb blast killed a top leader of a northern Afghan province and at least 12 other people Monday, the latest in a step-up of attacks by Taliban insurgents ahead of Washington’s planned troop withdrawal at the end of 2014.
The attack occurred in the city of Pul-e-Khumri at the offices of Mohammad Rasoul Mohseni, chief of the Baghlan provincial council, a government body akin to a legislature, said Mahmood Haqmal, spokesman for the Baghlan governor’s office.
The bomber came on foot to the building, pushed through Mohseni’s bodyguards and detonated his explosives-filled vest as he entered the compound, he said.
Along with Mohseni, six of his bodyguards and six civilians were killed. Nine other people were injured in the attack, Haqmal said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the attack “a cowardly act against all Islamic teachings and human values.” The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast.
Afghanistan has seen a marked increase in insurgent attacks in recent weeks. In April, the Taliban warned it would launch its spring offensive, a time when a rise in insurgent violence coincides with the melting of snow blocking paths and mountain passes used by militants.
On May 16, a suicide car bombing in the capital, Kabul, targeted a NATO convoy, killing at least 15 people. Two of the dead were U.S. soldiers, and four others were American civilian contractors working for DynCorp, a U.S. military contractor in Afghanistan to train Afghan security forces. The other nine killed were Afghan civilians.
Last Friday, militants in the far western province of Farah killed a police chief known to be outspoken in his opposition to the Taliban. Abdul Ghani was shot to death by gunmen on motorcycles as he pulled out of his driveway.
Special correspondent Hashmat Baktash reported from Kabul, and staff writer Alex Rodriguez reported from Islamabad, Pakistan.