As Muslims around the world marked the first day of Eid al-Adha, a suicide bomber killed at least 41 people and wounded 34 when he struck inside a mosque in Maymana city in northern Afghanistan during Eid prayers on Friday, officials said.
The attacker was wearing a police uniform when he blew himself up in the crowded Eid Gah mosque in the provincial capital of Faryab province, deputy provincial governor Abdul Satar Barez told AFP.
“Our latest death toll shows 41 deaths, and that might rise,” he said, adding that five children were among the dead.
Most provincial government officials were also at the mosque, which was crowded on the first day of the four-day holiday for the Muslim festival of Eid.
“The suicide bomber detonated explosives when our countrymen were congratulating each other on the Eid holiday,” said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for police in the Afghan north said, adding that almost half of the dead were police.
It was not immediately clear if the Faryab police chief, who was not killed in the attack, was the target, Ahmadzai said.
“As soon as the police chief got in his vehicle the bomber detonated his explosives. It looks like the target was a large number of security forces,” Ahmadzai said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suicide bombings are a favorite weapon of Taliban Islamists trying to topple the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
Northern Afghanistan is relatively peaceful, with the Taliban, who were ousted from power in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, concentrating their operations in the south and east of the country.
But they have recently stepped up their activities in the north, despite the presence of more than 100,000 NATO troops in the country.