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Published:November 6th, 2007 07:13 EST
100 dead,  Afghan suicide blast

100 dead, Afghan suicide blast

By SOP newswire

KABUL (AFP) - Around 100 people including six lawmakers were killed or wounded in a suicide bombing Tuesday at a sugar factory in northern Afghanistan, one of the worst attacks since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Government officials said the bomber blew himself up in the factory in the northern province of Baghlan just as a parliamentary economics committee was visiting.

"Several people, including civilians, children and at least six MPs were martyred," presidential spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told AFP.

Officials were not immediately able to provide a breakdown of the dead and wounded in the immediate aftermath of the late afternoon blast in the town of Pul-i-Khumri, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Kabul.

"According to initial reports from our local health and hospital officials, there are 100 people killed and injured," Ahmad Shah Shokohmand, director of provincial health departments in the public health ministry in Kabul told AFP.

"In one hospital we have got 42 people admitted and in another hospital nine bodies have been brought," Shokohmand said.

The interior ministry said earlier that 50 were dead and wounded. It was a suicide attack, spokesman Zemarai Bashary said.

Afghan media cited witnesses saying mutilated bodies littered the scene of the attack, which was covered in blood. Many of the wounded were in a critical condition, they said.

There were about 18 MPs in the delegation that visited the factory, said a lawmaker in Kabul, Daud Sultanzai. His information was that five MPs were dead and at least three wounded.

Bodyguards and other members of the delegation were also killed, he added.

The lawmakers were on a tour of Baghlan province, another parliamentarian, Shukria Barakzai, told AFP in Kabul.

Those dead included Mustafa Kazimi, who headed the parliament's economics committee and a former government commerce minister, she said.

"The president condemned this attack in the strongest terms possible," said Hamidzada, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai.

"This is the act of the enemies of the people of Afghanistan."

A helicopter was sent from Kabul to evacuate some of the wounded, according to a parliament official. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said it was also mustering help.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast but there have been around 120 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, most of them blamed on the extremist Taliban movement waging an intensifying insurgency.

However, one of the Taliban's main spokesmen, Zabihullah Mujahed, said his organisation was not involved in the latest attack.

Northern Afghanistan, including Baghlan, has seen relatively little of the daily violence plaguing Afghanistan and blamed on the Taliban.

The hardline Islamic Taliban were in government from 1996 until they were ousted in late 2001 by a US-led coalition following the September 11 attacks that year in the United States.

The Taliban's insurgency has grown in strength year after year -- more than 5,000 people have been killed in unrest this year, most of them rebels.

In the past week, insurgents have also driven security forces out of three districts in southern and central Afghanistan, and claim to have captured the areas. The government says it will launch operations soon to drive them out.

About 25 "terrorists" were meanwhile killed in an air strike in the western province of Badghis late Monday, an army general said.

The Taliban are allied with the Al-Qaeda network and are said to be trained and supplied across the border in Pakistan, where rebel leaders are thought to have fled after their government was driven out.

While the Taliban lead the campaign against the government, other Islamist outfits are also involved. They include that of former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who operates in the north and east.

by Sardar Ahmad

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