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Afghan official possible target of attack

The bombing in Farah that killed 16 may have been aimed at the governor, who has worked with the U.S.

November 21, 2009|Laura King

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Authorities on Friday were investigating whether a blast that hit a crowded marketplace in western Afghanistan was aimed at a provincial governor considered friendly to the United States.

A suicide bomber rode a motorcycle into a crowded marketplace in the city of Farah, capital of Farah province, and set off his explosives, killing 16 other people and injuring about two dozen others.

At least two children were among the dead and several were injured, hospital officials said.

Friday is the day of the main Muslim congregational prayer, and people usually flock to the market to shop for the makings of a big family meal. Mothers often take their children on such outings.

The violence came a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai, taking office for a second five-year term, appealed in his inaugural address for insurgents to lay down their arms.

The explosion occurred about 50 yards from the compound of Farah's governor, Rohul Amin, who has worked with American officials stationed in the province. He was not injured, and it was not immediately clear whether the bomb was meant for him.

The market street that was hit abuts the governor's heavily guarded compound. Witnesses said police shouted at the motorcyclist to halt before he detonated his explosives.

Civilians often bear the brunt of attacks aimed at official installations or Western troops.

A day earlier, 10 civilians were killed in Oruzgan province, in southern Afghanistan, when a suicide bomber tried to strike a military convoy.

Farah city had been considered a relatively safe area. But in recent months, Taliban forces have tightened their grip on districts surrounding the provincial capital, virtually cutting it off from the rest of western Afghanistan. Residents risk ambushes and banditry if they venture in the direction of the western region's main hub, Herat, several hours' drive away.

Coalition forces, including Afghan and American troops, have sought to break the militants' stranglehold on Farah. Local officials said a Taliban commander and several fighters had been killed in an allied military operation this week and the market attack might have been in retaliation for that.

More civilians were hurt Friday in Khowst province, in Afghanistan's east, where an explosion injured three people. That area borders Pakistan's tribal areas and has been the site of fighting between insurgents and Western troops.

Elsewhere, an Afghan lawmaker and former warlord escaped an assassination attempt near Kabul, the national capital, according to police. The parliamentarian, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, was traveling through the Paghman district when a large remote-controlled bomb exploded, wrecking one of the cars in his convoy.

Sayyaf apparently was not injured, but local reports said two of his bodyguards were killed.

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laura.king@latimes.com

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