KABUL (AFP) - At least nine people were killed on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a funeral for the victims of a roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan, provincial officials said.
“A suicide attacker detonated himself when he was identified by the police,” said Khawani, the deputy security chief of eastern Laghman province where the attack took place, who goes by one name.
“Nine people were killed – five police and four civilians – as a result of the attack,” he told AFP, adding that 34 people were also wounded by the bomb.
Earlier a local official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at least eight people were killed in the attack in the city of Mehtarlam.
Laghman governor spokesman Sarhadi Zwak placed the death toll at 16, with another 39 wounded.
No one has claimed responsiblity for the attack but suicide bombings are a hallmark of the Taleban’s war against foreign and Afghan security forces, now in its fourteenth year.
The insurgents are able to mount regular attacks across swathes of the country, particularly southern and eastern provinces.
Thursday’s funeral was being held for a police commander and three other people who were killed in a roadside bomb blast, according to Zwak.
Afghanistan saw a surge in violence last year as international forces wound down their combat mission, which began in 2001. It has now been downgraded to support and training duties to help the Afghan army and police.
About 17,000 foreign soldiers, most of them from the US, will remain in Afghanistan as part of the new mission.
But US troop numbers are set to halve within 12 months and fall to almost nothing in two years.
Civilian casualties rose 19 per cent from the previous year to a record high in 2014, with nearly 3,200 civilians killed and over 6,400 injured, according to a UN report released in December.
Casualties among children jumped a third and among women by 12 per cent by the end of November, in the deadliest year for non-combatants, said the report.
Afghanistan is also grappling with political instability after lawmakers Wednesday rejected most of President Ashraf Ghani’s nominees for the new Cabinet, a fresh setback for the newly formed “national unity government”.
Ghani, like his predecessor Hamid Karzai, has promised to reach out to the Taleban to find a lasting peace for his country, without compromising on fundamental values including women’s rights.