KABUL — A bomb blast killed the governor of restive Logar province Tuesday morning as he was delivering a speech at a mosque on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, according to Afghan officials, who said several other people were killed and at least 20 injured in the blast.
“The bomb was planted in advance and killed the governor along with some other people,” said Ayub Salangi, the deputy interior minister.
Salangi said the bomb was placed in a microphone used by speakers at the mosque — an unusual tactic in Afghanistan and one that suggested a plan to target the governor, Arsala Jamal.
“Numerous Afghan civilians were injured or killed” in the incident, John Ripley, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, said in a statement.
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the ISAF commander, condemned the attack, saying the “indiscriminate violence, on a day reserved for national peace and celebration, reflects a complete disregard for the sanctity of life.”
The killing of Jamal, 47, is one of the highest-profile assassinations in Afghanistan this year. A Canadian citizen, Jamal had returned to Afghanistan to serve in several key positions, including as minister of tribal affairs. His most recent posting took him to Logar, a violent province just south of Kabul and a place where the Taliban has a considerable foothold. He was seen as a close ally of President Hamid Karzai.
Nicholas Haysom, the U.N. secretary general’s deputy in Afghanistan, also denounced the attack, saying, “I am deeply shocked by this killing of a civilian, in a mosque, on one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar.”
Although this year’s fighting season has been challenging for the Afghan army and police, the Taliban has not carried out as many targeted assassinations as in some other years, such as 2011, when it claimed responsibility for killing the president’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani. The Afghan government says its intelligence service has helped to thwart some planned attacks.
Tuesday’s bombing followed the capture of Taliban leader Latif Mehsud in Logar last week.
Afghan officials said that in recent weeks, they had established a relationship with Mehsud, a top Taliban commander who was living in Logar. Afghan intelligence operatives had picked him up, the officials say, but they were stopped by U.S. personnel, who seized him from Afghan custody and took him to a U.S.-run prison. U.S. officials say Mehsud was captured in an American operation.
As of Tuesday morning, the Taliban had not indicated whether Jamal was killed in retaliation for Mehsud’s detention.