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45 die in Afghan mosque blast

Attacker strikes on important Muslim holiday

 Bodies of bombing victims were placed in the courtyard of a hospital in Afghanistan on Friday. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque, killing dozens of people and wounding many more, government and hospital officials said.

QAWTBUDDIN KHAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bodies of bombing victims were placed in the courtyard of a hospital in Afghanistan on Friday. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque, killing dozens of people and wounding many more, government and hospital officials said.

KABUL — A suicide bomber struck in northern Afghanistan on Friday morning, killing at least 45 people, just as worshippers left a mosque to celebrate the first day of Eid al-Adha, the most important Muslim holiday, officials said. It was among several attacks in Afghanistan on Friday, and by far the most lethal.

The attack, in Maimana, the capital of Faryab Province, also wounded 60 people.

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Among the dead were 25 members of the Afghan National Security Forces, including the Afghan National Civil Order Police commander for Faryab, the head of the police quick-reaction force, and the chiefs of police for two districts of Maimana, according to Naqibullah Faiq, a member of Parliament from Faryab.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack. ‘‘Those who are taking away the happiness of Muslims during the Eid al-Adha days are the enemies of Islam, and you cannot call them human or Muslim,’’ he said.

Dr. Maroof Samar, a surgeon at a government hospital, said, ‘‘The hospital is overwhelmed by dead and wounded bodies; all off-duty doctors were called in.’’ He ran to the hospital from the mosque, where he was among the worshippers, he said.

The province has become increasingly violent during the last year, and it now rivals Kunduz Province for the distinction of being the most troubled province in northern Afghanistan, Western diplomats said. Unlike southern Afghanistan, where the power struggles and attacks are among Pashtuns, the north has troubles tinged with ethnic bias. Ethnic Uzbeks make up a majority in Faryab.

A provincial reconstruction team run by Norwegians had been operating in Maimana, but the last of its members left in September, and most of the US military personnel deployed in the province have closed their outposts, officials said.

Provincial officials who have been fighting the Taliban in Faryab were especially upset, because there had been hopes that recent battles with the insurgents had sapped their strength. However, it appeared that Friday’s attack was in revenge for Taliban losses earlier in the week. On Wednesday, Afghan forces fought Taliban militants in the Pashtun Kot District, killing the shadow governor — the man who ran the Taliban government in the province — and 24 of his men, said Abdul Sattar Bariz, the deputy provincial governor.

Samar, the surgeon, said: ‘‘Everyone was thinking that after their shadow governor was killed, they would not be able to survive anymore in Faryab so this could be revenge for the shadow governor’s death.’’

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, said he had not heard of the attack and sought details so that he could check with Taliban in the province. .

Rahmatullah Rais, an opponent of the Taliban said: ‘‘No Muslim would target other Muslims at the mosque. This is not the work of a Muslim, even an infidel won’t attack a Muslim in the holy days Eid al-Adha,’’ he said.

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