A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed an anti-Taliban politician at his daughter’s wedding Saturday.
Once the bomber arrived at the ceremony, he hugged Ahmad Khan Samangani as he was greeting guests in the wedding hall, setting off an explosion that killed the politician and 22 other guests, including the provincial intelligence chief and a senior police commander, reports Reuters. Samangani had advised security against searching the guests, resulting in the bombing that injured up to 60 others. “The enemies of Afghanistan once again targeted mujahideen figures who strive for national unity,” said Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai.
Those wounded are currently in critical condition, meaning that the death toll could continue to climb in the most lethal attack in recent months. The Taliban has denied all involvement, and routinely distance themselves from attacks with a high civilian death toll. “We don’t have a hand in this,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. “Ahmad Khan (Samangani) was a former commander of the mujahideen, he was notorious and many people could have had problems with him.”
The attack signals growing instability in Afghanistan’s northern territories, normally a relatively peaceful area. It could have vast political implications for the area, signalling a power struggle among northern warlords, most members of ethnic minorities, though still prominent. It could also signal a revived Taliban campaign to target and assassinate powerful figures in the Northern Alliance, a militia that crippled the Taliban’s power, reports the LA Times.
“I saw parts of bodies, blood all over the reception,” said Ahmad Jawed, a guest at the wedding and witness to the carnage. “Many wounded people were crying for help.”
Another witness, Barat Khan, said, “It took some 15 minutes for the smoke to clear, then I saw bodies and pools of blood.”
Samangani was a former warlord who fought against the Soviets in the 1980s, and then against the Taliban during their 1996-2001 rule. According to Kabul-based political analyst Waheed Mujhda, Samangani may have had enemies other than the Taliban. “Former warlords have frequently been targeted in the past,” he said. “Ahmad Khan Samangani was a strongman in terms of security for Samangan province. His loss will certainly affect security in that region.”