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Bomber kills 14 at Afghan provincial council

| Monday, May 20, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform killed 14 people, including a prominent provincial council chief, outside the council headquarters in northern Afghanistan on Monday, authorities said. The Taliban insurgency quickly claimed responsibility.

Seeking to weaken the Afghan government, Taliban insurgents have been carrying out attacks and assassinations intended to intimidate officials and civilians in advance of next year's withdrawal of most international troops.

Baghlan provincial council leader Mohammad Rasoul Mohseni was entering the compound in the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri in the morning when the bomber approached on foot and detonated his explosives, said Baghlan Chief of Police Asadullah Sherzad.

The attacker was dressed in a police uniform and blended with officers at a checkpoint near the council headquarters, then slipped into a group of people surrounding Mohseni and set off his bomb in the crowd, said Baghlan Deputy Police Chief Mohammad Sadeq Muradi.

“He was basically waiting for his target, who was Rasoul Mohseni,” Muradi said.

Two of Mohseni's police bodyguards, four checkpoint police and seven civilians were killed in the blast, he said. It was unclear whether the attacker was actually a member of Afghan security forces or an insurgent who bought or stole a uniform.

Mohammad Zahier Ghanizada, a member of parliament from Baghlan, said Mohseni had received multiple death threats.

A well-known figure in Baghlan, Mohseni was a respected commander in the Northern Alliance that fought against the Taliban's hard-line regime before it was toppled in 2001.

He comes from a prominent family in the province, and his brother Azim Mohseni is a member of parliament.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed in a text message to journalists that an insurgent operative carried out the targeted bombing.

“Today at 11 a.m. in front of the Baghlan provincial council office, we have carried out a suicide attack and killed the head of the council,” it said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing.

“Such attacks are against all human rights and the principles of Islam,” Karzai said in a statement. “Perpetrators of such attacks are enemies of the Afghan nation and the puppets of foreigners.”

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