A suicide bomber has detonated himself in Afghanistan's relatively peaceful north, killing nearly two dozen people at a wedding. A national legislator was among the many dead. The Taliban denies responsibility.
A suicide bomber attacked a wedding ceremony in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 22 people, including a national lawmaker.
Ahmad Khan Samangani, a legislator from Samangan province, was attending his daughter's wedding when he was killed by the blast. The head of local intelligence was also killed in the bombing, and another 40 people were wounded.
"The suicide attacker entered the hall where the wedding ceremony of Samangani's daughter was held, detonating his vest," Samangan province police official Ghulam Mohammad Khan said.
Several other high-ranking government officials were also reportedly in attendance at the wedding, which took place in regional capital, Aybak.
The bomber was reportedly on foot, according to Sediq Azizi, a spokesman for the provincial authorities.
Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the regional security forces, said that the bomber hugged the lawmaker shortly before detonating himself.
"Suddenly, the attacker, who was among the guests from Mazar-i-Sharif, got very close to Samangani," said Mohammad Nawab Sherzai, Aybak's criminal investigations director, told the Associated Press.
"It was a big explosion. There were bloody bodies all around the first floor. The explosion was so strong. There were people even on the third floor who were wounded."
Taliban deny responsibility
The Taliban denied responsibility for the suicide bombing, which was the deadliest attack in Afghanistan in months.
"We don't have a hand in this issue," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. "Ahmad Khan (Samangani) was a former commander of the mujihadeen; he was notorious and many people could have had problems with him."
Samangani had served as a mujihadeen commander during the 1980s, fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He subsequently led fighters against the Taliban during their rule from 1996-2001.
Northern Afghanistan is normally known for being more peaceful than the country's southern and eastern regions.
slk/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)