Karzai blasts 'foreign agents' for Afghan suicide attack

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered a scarcely veiled condemnation of Pakistan on Wednesday for a suicide bombing in Kunar province that killed at least 10 government-allied tribal leaders and wounded seven others.

The attack, Karzai said in a statement, was the work of "cowardly foreign agents hired by our historical enemy." He didn't mention Pakistan by name, but the reference was clear to all Afghans: Once again, a suicide attack in one of Afghanistan's eastern provinces was being laid to an as-yet-unidentified bomber suspected of coming from Pakistan's lawless tribal regions. Kunar borders Pakistan's tribal regions, which Islamist militants — including al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban — use as sanctuaries.

No group claimed the attack, which struck the tribal leaders as they were emerging from a meeting on local issues in Kunar's Asmar district.

Among those killed was Malik Zareen, a pro-government tribal elder and former commander in the war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Meah Hasan Adel, the head of the provincial council, said Zarin probably was the primary target of the attack.

"His death is a great loss for Afghanistan," Adel said.

Zareen's brother also was killed in the attack, Adel said.

Some reports said the bomber had embraced Zareen before detonating himself.

Pakistan's failure to oust extremists from its tribal regions is a sore point for Afghanistan and the United States, which has dubbed Pakistan's role crucial to any hopes for stability in Afghanistan. Last week, the Obama administration issued a grim report that concluded it saw "no clear path toward defeating" Islamic insurgents in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Outside the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, Kunar province has been Afghanistan's most violent. A variety of Islamist groups operate there, including Lashkar e Taiba, the Pakistan terrorist group that carried out the 2008 attack on Mumbai, India.

U.S. troops abandoned an outpost in the province's isolated Korengal Valley last year after U.S. commanders concluded that the valley's strategic value wasn't worth the number of casualties Americans were suffering to hold the outpost.

Wednesday's attack was part of a growing wave of insurgent violence that's sweeping eastern Afghanistan. Also on Wednesday, a soldier in the International Security Assistance Force, the formal name for the U.S.-led coalition, died when a roadside bomb struck the vehicle he was riding in.

A statement from the ISAF identified the location of the soldier's death only as eastern Afghanistan, and didn't give his nationality.

Last month, the Taliban kidnapped as many as 50 police recruits in Nuristan province, which borders Kunar, and attacked a convoy that was carrying Kunar's governor, Fazlullah Wahidi. Wahidi survived the attack.

Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent


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