Microphone bomb kills Afghan governor in restive province

AFP-JIJI

A bomb hidden in a microphone killed an Afghan provincial governor Tuesday as he made a speech at a mosque in Logar, close to the capital Kabul.

Arsala Jamal was appointed by President Hamid Karzai, like all 34 provincial governors, and he was seen as a close ally of the president, acting as one of his campaign managers in the 2009 election.

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

Jamal only took up the Logar job in April after serving as governor of Khost, on the border with Pakistan.

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

Karzai did not mention Jamal’s killing in his presidential Eid address on Tuesday, but again appealed for peace.

“Hamid Karzai called on the Taliban to work for the development of their country, and to spare Afghan security forces who are working to protect their soil, national dignity, and to stop carrying out attacks,” his office said. “(The president) once again called on the Taliban and their leaders not to throw the youth of this country into destruction.”

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

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.

Security in the province has deteriorated in recent years, with the Taliban holding sway in some areas despite sustained Afghan and U.S. 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 are being manipulated by foreign powers, and called on Afghans not to participate.

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

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

Omar warned any U.S. 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.