Well-known Afghan commander among 20 dead in blast
A suicide attacker blew himself up Saturday in a wedding hall in northern Afghanistan, killing more than 20 people including a well-known commander and other local leaders, Afghan officials said.
The death of Ahmad Khan Samangani, an ethnic Uzbek who is also a member of parliament, is a blow to efforts to unify Afghanistan's various ethnic factions.
Conflict between the Taliban — who come mostly from the country's biggest group, the Pashtuns — and members of its ethnic minorities is nothing new in a nation whose history is scarred by bloody civil strife, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai needs minority groups — loosely known as the Northern Alliance — to back his efforts to reconcile with the Taliban.
Ghulam Mohammad Khan, the criminal director of the provincial police, said more than 20 people died in the morning blast in Aybak, the capital of Samangan province.
He said the provincial chief of intelligence and an Afghan National Army division commander also were among those killed by the suicide attacker, who blew himself up at the entrance to the hall where guests were being welcomed to the wedding of the commander's daughter.
More than 40 others were wounded, including Gen. Sayed Ahmad Sameh, a western regional commander for the Afghan National Police, who was a relative of Samangani, Khan said.
Samangani became famous during Afghanistan's fight against the Soviets, who left the country in 1989 after a 10-year occupation. He became a member of parliament last year and was considered a key leader in Samangan and northern Afghanistan.