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Suicide attack at Afghan funeral kills 20, wounds dozens more

By Laura King and Hashmat Baktash, Los Angeles Times –

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bombing at a funeral in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday killed 20 civilians and injured about three dozen others, officials said, an attack apparently targeting a district governor, who survived.

The explosion took place in the Dur Baba district of Nangarhar province, where villagers had flocked to pay tribute to a village elder. But the attacker with explosives strapped to him slipped into their midst, said the provincial police chief, Abdullah Stanikzai.

Authorities believed the blast was an attempt to assassinate Hamesha Gul, the district chief, who was among the mourners. He was hospitalized in stable condition, but his son and brother were among the dead, Stanikzai said.

The Taliban and other insurgent groups this year have engaged in a deadly campaign against government officials, community leaders and public servants. The United Nations said such killings — essentially targeting anyone who is seen as aiding the central government or supporting the presence of Western troops — rose by 50 percent in the first half of this year.

Western military officials and diplomats have condemned the assassinations, but preventing them is difficult because officials at the local and district level are largely unprotected and often mingle with crowds at public gatherings. Governors, Cabinet officials and other high-ranking politicians generally travel with bodyguards in bulletproof vehicles, but some of them have been successfully targeted as well.

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