Afghanistan suicide bomb kills prominent MP at wedding

Ahmad Khan Samangani was attending a wedding party for his daughter when the attack occurred

A well-known Afghan politician and around 20 other people have been killed in a suicide attack in the northern province of Samangan, police say.

Ahmad Khan Samangani, an ethnic Uzbek MP, was attending a wedding party for his daughter in the provincial capital, Aybak, when the blast happened.

The attacker, posing as a guest, embraced Mr Samangani before detonating his explosives, a witness said.

A Taliban spokesman denied involvement in the attack.

Ahmad Khan Samangani was a commander in the mujahideen militia during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1980s.

He was known as a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and a rival of Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, a powerful civil war commander in the north and currently one of Afghanistan's most prominent Uzbek politicians, the BBC's Bilal Sarwary says.

Ahmad Khan Samangani speaking in parliament in Kabul in an undated file photo Ahmad Khan Samangani, a mujahideen commander in the 1990s civil war, became an MP in 2011

Mr Samangani became a member of parliament last year, replacing one of several sitting MPs expelled by the Independent Electoral Commission for alleged electoral fraud in the 2010 parliamentary election.

President Hamid Karzai has appointed a team to investigate the attack.

A statement from his office blamed "enemies of Afghanistan".

'Notorious'

The hall where the wedding was taking place was packed with about 100 people, a witness said.

In addition to those killed, more than 40 other people were wounded in the attack, according to police.

Analysis

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid issued a swift denial of responsibility for the attack that killed Ahmad Khan Samangani, who had made many enemies during his years as a militia commander.

At different times, he both allied himself to and fought against Gen Dostum and Mohammed Atta - the two most powerful northern warlords during the civil war period in the early 1990s.

He had blamed Gen Dostum for an attempt on his life that killed his driver and bodyguard in 2007. But suicide bombing is not a tactic used by Gen Dostum, so speculation has turned to the IMU, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

This is a fundamentalist militant group, allied to al-Qaeda and with more of an international agenda than the Taliban. It operates in the northern region of Afghanistan and across the border in Uzbekistan. Two of its senior commanders were arrested this week and are suspected of planning suicide attacks.

Ghulam Mohammad Khan, the criminal director of the provincial police, told Associated Press that the dead included provincial intelligence chief Mohammad Khan.

A senior regional police commander related to Mr Samangani was among those injured, he added.

"We don't have a hand in this issue," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the Reuters news agency.

"Ahmad Khan was a former commander of the mujahideen, he was notorious and many people could have had problems with him," he said.

Northern Afghanistan is relatively peaceful compared to the east and south of the country, where militant attacks are frequent.

The attack in Samangan comes a day after a prominent female Afghan politician was killed in a bomb attack in eastern Laghman province.

The politician, Hanifa Safi, was the provincial head of the Afghan ministry of women's affairs and was known as a leading advocate of fair treatment for women.

Many Afghans fear that attacks, particularly by the Taliban, will increase after foreign forces leave.

The 130,000-strong Nato-led force is scheduled to end combat duties in 2014.

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