KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide bomb attack on a funeral in east Afghanistan killed 16 people and injured another 39 on Thursday, a local official said, an unusually high death toll for a single bombing in a country ravaged by decades of war.
Separately, Taliban militants attacked a checkpoint operated by a group of armed villagers late on Wednesday evening, killing 11 people, according to another official. Seven militants were also killed during the attack, he added.
The violence underscores growing instability in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is seeking to take advantage of the withdrawal of most foreign troops and persistent political uncertainty following a turbulent election last year.
A small contingent of coalition forces, including about 10,600 U.S. troops, remain on the ground, but most are involved in training Afghanistan’s national security force.
The incident at the funeral took place on Thursday afternoon in the provincial capital of eastern Laghman province, killing 12 civilians and four policeman, a spokesman for the governor said.
“A suicide bomber detonated explosives attached to his body,” Sarhadi Zwak said in a statement, adding that Afghan security forces had arrested a second suspected bomber.
Officials blamed the Taliban for the bombing. The militant group could not be reached for comment.
The attack on the checkpoint started late on Wednesday evening and continued for several hours, a local official said. It had probably been planned with the help of a Taliban fighter who had infiltrated the local community.
“The attack took place one month after a Taliban insurgent joined the villagers’ militia,” Deputy Governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters, listing 11 militia fighters and seven Taliban among the dead.
“That Taliban fighter paved the way for others to attack.”
The villagers had formed their own militia because there was no permanent security force in their area, Ahmadi added.
Reporting Mirwais Harooni in Kabul, Mustafa Andalib in Ghazni and Bashir Ansari in Mazar-i-Sharif; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Gareth Jones