Afghan MP among 19 killed in suicide attack

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A suicide bomber attacked a funeral in northeastern Afghanistan on Sunday killing at least 19 people including an MP and wounding dozens of others, officials said.

The attacker detonated his vest after mourners gathered for the funeral of a government official in Taluqan city, the capital of Takhar province.

"We have 19 dead including an MP, Abdulmutalib Baig, and about 40 wounded, mostly civilians," said Takhar provincial governor Abdul Jabar Taqwa.

"I was also invited to this ceremony but I didn't go. The target was either me or the MP."

Baig was a former Mujahedeen commander and the former police chief of Kunduz province, he added.

Provincial police chief General Khair Mohammad Temor, who confirmed the death toll and number of wounded, said no women were among the dead.

"A suicide attacker wearing a suicide vest attacked the funeral procession," he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility and the Taliban, who are leading a 10-year insurgency against Afghan government forces and US-led international troops, were not reachable for comment.

Takhar province is one of the areas being handed over by NATO in the second wave of transition to Afghan security forces ahead of the planned withdrawal of foreign combat forces by the end of 2014.

There have been a number of high-profile attacks in the province in the last year, including the assassination of northern Afghanistan police commander and former minister General Mohammad Daud Daud.

The interior ministry confirmed the death toll and said the attack took place at about 2.30pm.

"This attack has killed innocent civilians. The wounded were immediately taken to the hospital by the national police," the ministry said in a statement.

"The ministry condemns this cowardly attack on the former mujahedeen commander."

Elsewhere in Afghanistan an Afghan soldier was killed in a gunfight with US troops after he opened fire during an argument on Christmas eve, officials said.

US troops were also injured in the incident on Saturday after the Afghan soldier began shooting and coalition troops returned fire in southwestern Farah province, Afghan army and police officials said.

"Last night in Bala Boluk an Afghan army soldier opened fire on foreign forces," said Najibullah Najibi, spokesman for the Afghan army in western Afghanistan.

"Four foreign forces have been wounded in this incident and the Afghan soldier has been killed."

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said there were no coalition fatalities but would not comment on ISAF casualties in line with policy.

"We are aware of the incident in... Farah province and we are still in the process of gathering all the facts. There were no ISAF fatalities," said Sgt Mike Montello.

Coalition troops often carry out joint operations with Afghan army and police against the Taliban-led insurgency.

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