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Suicide bombing darkens holy day in Afghanistan

A suicide bombing has killed at least 40 people in the northwestern Afghanistan province of Faryab. The attack came on the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

At a crowded mosque in the provincial capital city Maimana, Muslim worshippers had gathered to pray on the first of four holy days. A suicide bomber struck the place of worship shortly thereafter, according to a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry.

"The suicide bomber detonated his vest inside the mosque when people were coming out after finishing the prayers," Sediq Sediqqi said.

Initial reports indicated that about 40 people had been killed by the blast, and at least as many others injured.

The motive behind the attack on Friday remained unclear, but the presence of the police chief of Faryab province and other local officials drew speculation that the suicide bomber had been targeting them.

Friday's attack came as part of a wave of violence against Afghan military personnel in recent months. International leaders worry that the relentless attacks against domestic security forces foreshadow a violent transition when the Western military alliance NATO withdraws its combat troops in 2014.

Meanwhile, eyes were on Syria for signs of upheaval. President Bashar Assad's government and opposition groups had agreed to a ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. The envoy's hope had been that a ceasefire during the holiday Eid al-Adha would open space for political dialogue. But, several hours after the truce went into effect, fighting broke out in the northern town of Maaret al-Numan.

kms/pfd (AFP, dpa, Reuters)