Afghanistan suicide bomber 'kills 10' in Faryab

Scene of attack in Faryab, 4 April 2012
Image caption The attack in Faryab took place close to the main market, which was packed with shoppers

A suicide bomb attack in northern Afghanistan has left at least 10 people dead, officials say.

Sources told the BBC the bomber had targeted a meeting of officials in Maymana, capital of Faryab province.

More than 20 people were hurt, a number critically. Nato said three service members were killed in a blast in the north on Wednesday but has not linked it to the Faryab incident.

Attacks in northern Afghanistan are far less common than in the south and east.

Nato's Isaf force said it was aware of "reported civilian/military casualties" in Faryab but was still investigating and stressed it had not yet made any announcement related to victims there.

Strategic partnership

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says a suicide attacker on a motorbike approached the meeting near the main vegetable market, which was packed with shoppers as well as Afghan and Western security forces.

A former MP, Haji Ahmad Khan, told the BBC: ''There was a big function in Maymana. The suicide attacker got inside the meeting and attacked. There is blood everywhere. There are body parts scattered.''

A senior police official in Maymana added: ''Most of those killed and injured are local shopkeepers."

A spokesman for the regional Afghan command said two women and two children were among the dead. Four policemen are also reported to have been killed.

The Taliban said they carried out the attack.

Most of the foreign forces in Faryab are Norwegians but a spokesman for the country's army told AFP none of its troops were nearby.

Norway currently contributes some 400 soldiers to the 130,000-strong Isaf that is fighting the Taliban-led insurgency. Norway has lost 10 personnel since the Nato-led invasion took place in 2001.

Most of the Isaf force is due to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Nato and the government of President Hamid Karzai are still working on a strategic partnership agreement on Nato involvement after 2014.

In a separate incident, the police chief of Chardara district in Kunduz province told the BBC that a local police official had turned his gun on his commander and two of the commander's bodyguards, killing all three before fleeing.

The commander was a former Taliban member who joined the government last year.

The Taliban have continued their campaign of gun and bomb attacks on Nato forces this year, with almost 100 service members killed.

The number of incidents rose after the burning of Korans by US troops at base in February.

Tensions were further inflamed by the killing of 17 Afghan civilians, including nine children on 11 March by US Staff Sgt Robert Bales, 38, in their homes in Kandahar province.

Taliban attacks traditionally increase further at this time of year following a winter lull, when bad weather restricts the movement of fighters.