Suicide bomber kills 10 at Afghan elders meet

The bomber struck in Kunar, one of Afghanistan`s most restive provinces.

Asadabad: A suicide attack ripped through a gathering of tribal elders in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing 10 people, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said.

The bomber struck in Kunar, one of Afghanistan`s most restive provinces and an insurgent stronghold on the border with Pakistan, where Taliban-led militants fighting the Afghan government and US-led troops have rear bases.

"A suicide attacker targeted a gathering of tribal elders in the Asmar district of Kunar today," Bashary said. "Ten people have been martyred and seven others have been injured."

He said the dead included a key local pro-government elder.

The district police chief, Mohammad Shoaib, said the bomber blew himself up after approaching an elder, Malik Zarin, to hug him in greeting.

"The suicide attacker approached them, hugged Malik Zarin and then detonated the explosives strapped to his body," Shoaib said.

The Taliban and other insurgents frequently target pro-government figures as part of their near 10-year campaign against government forces and the roughly 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan.

But the Taliban denied responsibility for Wednesday`s attack in a text message sent to a news agency.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that al Qaeda militants were returning to eastern Afghan provinces such as Kunar and setting up bases for the first time in years, exploiting a pullback of US troops in the area.

In response, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) denied that al Qaeda was staging a "return in force”.

The accidental deaths of civilians in international military operations in Kunar in recent months triggered a wave of protests in Afghanistan and highlighted tensions between President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers.

The US commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, apologised over the deaths along with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Karzai said nine children died in a March 01 air strike as they collected firewood in Darah-Ye Pech district of Kunar.

Responsibility for security is due to be handed from international to Afghan forces from July in seven areas of the impoverished country.

It is intended to be the first step in a transition process due to culminate with the full withdrawal of foreign troops from combat operations in 2014.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, local officials said five foreign soldiers and four Afghan civilians were wounded late Tuesday by a bomb targeting a military patrol in the troubled southern province of Kandahar.

The attack came outside a motorcycle repair shop in Panjwayi district as an ISAF foot patrol passed.

A spokesman for the Kandahar governor`s office said five soldiers and four civilians were wounded in the incident, which he said was a car bombing.

But ISAF spokesman Major Tim James said it was a suicide bomber on foot.

He could not give details of the number of troops injured or the nature of their injuries but added that an Afghan interpreter working for the military and an Afghan child were also hurt.

"The majority" of casualties were not in a serious condition, James added.

Separately, a roadside bomb ripped through a tractor in Logar province, south of the Afghan capital Kabul, on Wednesday killing one civilian and wounding two others, the Interior Ministry said.

Bureau Report

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