BBC News

Afghanistan: Seven killed in Baghlan Eid suicide attack

image captionMost of the victims of Sunday's attack were civilians

A suicide bomber has killed at least seven people near a mosque in Afghanistan's northern Baghlan province, say officials.

The bomb went off as worshippers were leaving the mosque in Old Baghlan City after prayers marking the start of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Officials said two police officers were among the dead; at least 18 people were wounded.

The Taliban routinely carry out such attacks on civilians and troops.

Baghlan police chief Asadullah Shirzad said the explosion had hit at 09:30 local time (05:00 GMT) as people were leaving prayers.

He said the attacker had arrived on foot, the AFP news agency reports.

Siddiq Siddiqui, spokesman for the interior ministry, condemned the "act of violence against civilians on this important day".

Mr Siddiqui said initial investigations indicated the attack was the work of the Taliban.

A second attacker had been arrested before he could detonate his bomb, he said.

Acts against civilians

On Friday, before the Eid holiday, the Taliban published a statement on its website, attributed to Mullah Omar calling on fighters "to take every step to protect the lives and wealth of ordinary people".

The statement warned of punishments under Islamic sharia law for fighters responsible for civilian deaths.

American Marine Gen John Allen, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, condemned the bombing and challenged Mullah Omar to do so, too, reported the Associated Press news agency.

"If Mullah Omar is serious about his call upon the Taliban to eliminate acts against civilians, he too should condemn this publicly," Allen said.

Baghlan had been a peaceful province of Afghanistan, but levels of violence increased from 2010.

The United Nations says the first six months of 2011 were the deadliest for civilians across Afghanistan since the war began in 2001, as the Taliban sought to demonstrate it could still carry out attacks beyond its southern heartland.

Attacks have included the killing of seven UN workers in Mazar-i-Sharif in April, and the assassination of the police chief for the north of the country earlier this year.

The Nato-backed International Assistance Force (Isaf) is gradually handing over responsibility for security to the Afghans but about 140,000 foreign troops remain in the country.

The handover is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.