Suicide attack at Afghan funeral kills nine: police
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan – A suicide attack at a funeral in northern Afghanistan killed at least nine people on Monday, December 1, officials said, underlining nationwide insecurity as NATO troops end their 13-year war this month.
The blast followed a series of attacks in the capital Kabul which have heightened concerns that Afghanistan could tip into a spiral of violence as the US-led military presence declines.
The embattled Kabul police chief who tendered his resignation on Sunday will stay on in the role, a spokesman said, as Afghanistan struggles to respond to rising militant unrest.
NATO's force in Afghanistan will change on December 31 from a combat mission to a support role, with troop numbers cut to about 12,500 -- down from a peak of 130,000 in 2010.
"A suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosives among people who were attending a funeral ceremony in Burka district this morning," Aminullah Amarkhil, police chief of Baghlan province, told AFP.
"Initial reports show nine people, including two police, were killed and around 18 wounded."
Amarkhil said the funeral was for a tribal elder in Baghlan, a province on the main road from Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif that has suffered worsening security in recent years.
Taj Mohammad Taqwa, the district chief of Burka, confirmed the death toll to AFP.
"The target was probably a number of high-ranking police officials and provincial council members who were attending the ceremony," he said. "They are unharmed."
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Spate of attacks
A Taliban attack on Saturday in Kabul killed a South African father running an education charity and his two teenage children.
Insurgents have targeted foreign guest houses, embassy vehicles, US troops, Afghan army buses and a female member of parliament in recent weeks.
They also launched a four-day attack on a major military base in the southern province of Helmand that was only handed over by NATO a month ago, and killed 12 soldiers at a separate outpost in the same province on Saturday.
President Ashraf Ghani reacted to the spate of attacks by describing the Taliban as "a small minority who want to hijack the nation".
"We won't allow that," he vowed.
Ghani, who came to power in September, has vowed to bring peace to Afghanistan after decades of conflict, saying he is open to talks with any insurgent group.
Kabul police chief's resignation was accepted on Sunday, but the decision was reversed by Monday morning.
"Based on the request of high-ranking officials and in order to avoid disruption of security affairs, General Zahir was asked to continue his duties," Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanakzai told AFP.
Afghan soldiers and police have suffered soaring casualties on the battlefield, with more than 4,600 killed this year as they take on the Taliban with less assistance from the US military.
Afghanistan faces a fragile economy and declining aid funds as well as worsening violence.
Ghani and chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah, who signed a power-sharing deal in September, headed to a NATO meeting in Brussels on Monday before attending a conference in London on Thursday.
Their "national unity government" has struggled to get off the ground, with no ministers yet confirmed two months after Ghani was inaugurated.
Hamid Karzai, president from 2001-2014, opened preliminary contacts with the Taliban but they collapsed acrimoniously last year. – Rappler.com