Bomb at Eid prayers kills Afghan provincial governor

PULI ALAM, Afghanistan (AFP) - A bomb hidden in a microphone killed an Afghan provincial governor on Tuesday as he made a speech at a mosque after Eid prayers in Logar, close to the capital Kabul, officials said.

“This morning, governor Arsala Jamal was delivering a speech after Eid prayers when he was killed by a bomb planted in the microphone,” Logar provincial governor spokesman Din Mohammad Darwish told AFP.

“The governor wanted to speak and congratulate everyone on the occasion of Eid. At least 18 other people have been wounded, including civilians and government employees.”

Mr Jamal was appointed by President Hamid Karzai, like all 34 provincial governors, and he was seen as a close ally of the president, who will leave office next year. Mr Jamal only took up the Logar job in April after serving as governor of Khost, on the border with Pakistan.

Volatile Logar, which lies to the south of the Afghan capital, is seen as a key strategic region, often described as a “gateway to Kabul” for Taliban militants based in strongholds across the south and east.

No group claimed immediate responsibility for the blast, though Taliban militants often target provincial government officials as well as Afghan soldiers and police.

Mr Mohammad Jan Abid, head of the criminal investigative department in Logar, confirmed the bombing and said a probe would be launched.

Security in Logar has deteriorated in recent years with the Taliban holding sway in some areas despite sustained Afghan and US military pressure. Village-based Afghan Local Police (ALP) forces have also been active trying to wrestle back control of Taliban-held territory.

The Taliban have vowed to step up attacks as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections in April and the withdrawal of 87,000 NATO troops by the end of next year. Taliban supremo Mullah Omar on Sunday said he “rejected” the elections, which he alleged were being manipulated by foreign powers, and called on Afghans not to participate.

The hardline Islamist Taliban regime was driven from power by a US-led coalition in 2001 for sheltering the Al-Qaeda leaders behind the 9/11 attacks.

The US and Afghanistan are currently in the last stages of talks on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would see several thousand US troops remain in the country to aid stability and continue training of local security forces.

Omar warned any US bases remaining on Afghan soil “will never be accepted” and that “armed jihad will continue against them with more momentum”.

Eid ul Adha is a major public holiday across the Muslim world, with mosques packed with devotees marking the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to. Sheep and goats are sacrificed in many households and the meat distributed among family, friends and the poor.