Kunduz: The police commander for northern Afghanistan and two German soldiers were among six people killed on Saturday in a suicide bombing at a provincial governor`s office, officials said.
The attacker struck in Taloqan, capital of Takhar province, soon after a meeting regarding security had finished. The Taliban claimed responsibility in what was their latest example of high-profile target selection.
The slain police chief, General Mohammed Daoud Daoud, was a key figure in Afghanistan`s recent history. A former military commander of Ahmad Shah Massoud`s Northern Alliance, he oversaw the siege of Kunduz, the final major battle of the US-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks in 2001.
A former deputy interior minister, when he was the country`s top counter-narcotics official, Daoud had accused the Taliban of profiting from the opium trade by forging an alliance with drug smugglers and taxing farmers.
He also served at one point as governor of Takhar, reportedly at the request of the British, who considered him the corruption-plagued nation`s cleanest governor.
The commander of NATO forces for northern Afghanistan, German general Markus Kneip, survived Saturday`s attack, suffering slight injuries, defence minister Thomas de Maiziere, who confirmed the two fatalities, told reporters in Berlin.
Three other German troops were wounded, he said.
A provincial government spokesman said four Afghans, including General Daoud, were killed and that the governor Abdul Jabar Taqwa was wounded.
Qutbuddin Kamal, a senior aide to the governor, confirmed Daoud had been killed. "At the end of the meeting, when we wanted to leave, a suicide bomber waiting in the corridor blew himself up," he said.
Reports that the bomber was wearing military uniform could not be verified.
According to Zemarai Bashary, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, 12 people were wounded in the attack.
An ISAF spokesman confirmed that it had troops among the victims, while not specifying their nationality or whether they had been killed or injured.
Daoud, a member of the Afghan mujahedeen who fought against occupying Soviet troops, was appointed chief of police for northern Afghanistan last year.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said that the militants, who have been waging an insurgency since their ouster from power almost a decade ago, had conducted the bombing.
"One of our mujahedeen carried out the attack inside the Takhar governor`s complex during a meeting about security," he said.
"Most (of the participants) were killed, including General Daoud Daoud, who was chairing the meeting, the chief of police (for Takhar province)" and German and American soldiers, he added.
Takhar is normally a relatively quiet part of the insurgency-wracked country, although earlier this month 12 people were killed in Taloqan when police opened fire on 2,000 demonstrators protesting against a NATO raid.
Neighbouring Kunduz province has become a Taliban bastion in recent years, and has seen an increase in the frequency of insurgent assaults.
Daoud`s killing comes two months before international troops are due to start handing over control of security to local forces and withdraw from the country, a process due to be completed by 2014.
The past week has seen a series of similar suicide attacks or bombings. Eight US soldiers were killed on Thursday in two successive blasts in the southern city of Kandahar, the spiritual hub of the Taliban, in one of the worst such incidents in months.
This month`s killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US troops in Pakistan has led to calls for the process of handing control to Afghan forces to be speeded up.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday reiterated an order to his defence minister to prevent "unilateral operations" by foreign troops and move to bring "special operations and night raids" under local forces` control.
There are currently around 130,000 international troops, around two-thirds from the United States, stationed in Afghanistan.