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Deputy spy chief among 23 killed in Taliban blast
A Taliban suicide bomber detonated his explosives as Afghanistan's deputy chief of intelligence visited a mosque east of Kabul on Wednesday, killing the Afghan official and 22 others.
The attack struck at the heart of Afghanistan's intelligence service and underscored the Taliban's increasing ability to carry off complex and targeted attacks.
The explosion ripped through a crowd in Laghman province just as officials were leaving the main mosque in Mehterlam, 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Kabul. Two top provincial officials from Laghman were among the dead, and the blast destroyed several government vehicles.
A Taliban spokesman said a suicide bomber on foot targeted Abdullah Laghmani, the deputy chief of Afghanistan's National Directorate for Security. The spokesman for Laghman's governor, Sayed Ahmad Safi, confirmed Laghmani was killed.
The National Directorate for Security, or NDS, is headed by an ethnic Tajik, and the killing of Laghmani, a Pashtun, could further exacerbate ethnic tensions as the country counts the results of the Aug. 20 presidential election. With about half the results in, President Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, leads Abdullah Abdullah, who is half Pashtun and half Tajik but is seen as a Tajik candidate.
The blast killed Laghmani, the executive director of Laghman's governor's office, the head of Laghman's provincial council, two of Laghmani's body guards, and 18 civilians, said Sayed Ahmad Safi, the spokesman for Laghman's governor.
U.S. troops cordoned off the blast site, right outside Mehterlam's main mosque, which sits in a crowded market area. Safi said Laghmani was visiting the mosque to discuss plans to rebuild it.
Taliban suicide attacks frequently target high-ranking government officials. Militants have warned Afghans for years not to work as government officials, teachers, or in the country's armed forces.