By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times –
KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber killed at least 40 people in northern Afghanistan as he attacked prayer goers leaving mosque on one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar, according to a security official.
The attack on Eid al-Adha in Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, highlighted the volatile security situation in the country as the U.S.-led NATO forces shrink ahead of their scheduled departure at the end of 2014.
“A suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosives among the people as they were coming out of the Eid prayer,” said Lal Mohammed Ahmadzai, a police spokesman in northern Afghanistan. “The people were wishing Eid prayer messages to each other.”
At least 40 people were killed, most of them civilians, and 25 were wounded, Ahmadzai added. Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, is a day of prayer and celebration across the Muslim world.
There was no immediate claim for the attack, but it played into fears that the country’s Pashtun insurgency in the south and east could gradually overwhelm the government in Kabul, with the absence of strong international backing.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force denounced the attack. “I condemn this heinous act, which is an affront to human life, to religious devotion and to the peaceful aspirations of the Afghan people,” said General John R. Allen, ISAF’s commander. “This violence undertaken at a place of worship, and during Eid, once again shows the insurgency’s callous hypocrisy and disregard for religion and faith.”