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Suicide bomber kills 14 at Afghan province council

Police evacuated a person wounded when a suicide bomber struck outside a provincial council headquarters in Pul-i-Khumri in northern Afghanistan on Monday.

Jawed Basharat/Associated Press

Police evacuated a person wounded when a suicide bomber struck outside a provincial council headquarters in Pul-i-Khumri in northern Afghanistan on Monday.

KABUL — A suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform killed 14 people including a prominent provincial council chief outside the council headquarters in northern Afghanistan on Monday, authorities said. The Taliban insurgency quickly claimed responsibility.

Seeking to weaken the Afghan government, Taliban insurgents have been carrying out attacks and assassinations intended to intimidate both officials and civilians ahead of next year’s withdrawal of most international troops.

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Baghlan provincial council leader Mohammad Rasoul Mohseni was entering the compound in the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri when the bomber approached on foot and detonated his explosives, said Baghlan Chief of Police Asadullah Sherzad.

The attacker blended with officers at a checkpoint near the council headquarters, then slipped into a group of people surrounding Mohseni and set off his bomb, said Baghlan Deputy Police Chief Mohammad Sadeq Muradi.

‘‘He was basically waiting for his target,’’ Muradi said.

Two of Mohseni’s police bodyguards, four checkpoint police, and seven civilians were killed in the blast, he said.

It was unclear whether the attacker was actually a member of Afghan security forces or an insurgent who bought or stole a uniform.

A well-known figure in Baghlan, Mohseni had been a respected commander in the Northern Alliance that fought against the Taliban’s hard-line regime before it was toppled in 2001. He reportedly had received multiple death threats.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed in a text message to journalists that an insurgent operative carried out the targeted bombing.

Also on Monday, Taliban forces attacked police checkpoints in Helmand province.

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