Afghan Provincial Governor Killed in Mosque Attack

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- A bomb exploded at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday morning, killing the provincial governor as he prepared to give a speech honoring the start of a major Muslim holiday, officials said.

It was one of the few attacks this year to take the life of a senior official, despite insurgents' pledges to upend the government before the planned withdrawal of international forces next year.

Early reports suggested that the attack had killed only the governor, Arsala Jamal of Logar Province, who held both Afghan and Canadian citizenship and was highly thought of by leaders of the international military coalition here. But at least 15 others were injured, Afghan officials said, at least 8 of whom were in critical condition.

"This was an act carried out by the enemies of Islam and Afghanistan," said Hajji Abdul Wali Wakil, a member of the Logar provincial council. "Those who carried out this inhumane act do not want Afghans to live in peace."

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban denied involvement, saying they were trying to determine who the perpetrators were.

There were different reports of the nature of the bomb. An early report said a suicide bomber had struck, but the governor's spokesman, Din Mohammad Darwish, said the explosive was in the microphone the governor was to use.

The fact that the attack was committed on Id al-Adha, one of the holiest days of the Muslim calendar, and inside a mosque, underscored the insurgency's determination to target officials. With the holidays in full swing, most Afghan Army soldiers were on leave, leaving the Afghan police to handle the aftermath of the attack and forcing them to shuttle the injured to the provincial hospital.

Mosque attacks have been a bewildering, and frequent, strategy of the insurgents in Afghanistan, who proclaim Islamic law as the only just system. While mosques offer rare opportunities for people to approach leaders in a less secure environment, such attacks in holy places often erode the credibility of insurgents with the local population.

The assassination of Mr. Jamal was one of the first major targeted killings this year to reach into the high ranks of the government. While numerous district government officials, including those in law enforcement and intelligence, have been killed, insurgents have had less success going after provincial officials and those in Kabul.

Mr. Jamal only recently became the governor of Logar, having returned from Canada to take the position in April. He was previously governor of Khost, another province in the east of the country, and enjoyed a good working relationship with coalition commanders.

Logar has been an especially violent area this summer, with insurgents and Afghan forces battling along a major route into Kabul. As the Taliban focuses its attention on large attacks in the capital, roads like the highway from Logar, which enters Kabul from the south, are prime terrain.

Separately, a coalition soldier was killed in an enemy attack in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said. The nationality and circumstances of the death were not immediately available.

Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 15, 2013 2:01 PM


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