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Afghan suicide bomber kills top official, 22 more at wedding

Mazar-i-sharif, Afghanistan, July 14 (): A prominent anti-Taliban politician and 22 other guests were killed by a suicide bomber at a wedding reception on Saturday in the northern Afghan province of Samangan, officials said.

The suicide bomber detonated the explosive when he hugged lawmaker Ahmad Khan Samangani, in front of wedding guests. MP Ahmad Khan, a former militia commander, was celebrating his daughter’s marriage, police said. A senior police commander and the provincial intelligence chief were also killed in the blast.

A statement from President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack and said at least 22 people were killed and 60 others wounded. The statement accused the “terrorist” attack on the “enemies of Afghanistan”, a term used by Afghan officials to refer to the Taliban.

A Taliban which has been behind a series of suicide attacks this year, denied involvement in the attack. The group often distances itself from attacks with high civilian death tolls.

In 1980s, Ahmad Khan Samangani was a commander in the mujahideen militia during Afghanistan’s civil war.

He was a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and a competitor of Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, a powerful civil war commander in the north and he is at present one of Afghanistan’s most prominent Uzbek politicians.

Last year, Samangani became a member of parliament; replacing one of several sitting MPs disqualified by the Independent Electoral Commission for suspected electoral fraud in the 2010 parliamentary election.

On Friday, a car bomb killed a leading female politician, Hanifa Safi. No one has claimed responsibility. Hanifa Safi, the provincial women’s affairs official in Laghman, east of Kabul, was killed and her husband and daughter critically wounded when a magnetic bomb attached to her vehicle exploded, police said.

Afghanistan is going through some of the worst violence since the Taliban government was collapsed by U.S.-led Afghan forces more than a decade ago.