- Associated Press - Monday, February 21, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to an Afghan government office Monday, killing at least 30 people, many of whom were waiting in line to obtain government identification cards, police said.

The attack occurred around noon in Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, where there has been a sharp slide in security in recent months, said district police Chief Abdul Qayum Ebrahimi. At least 40 people were wounded in the blast, he said.

“We were in a meeting. It was a very powerful explosion,” said Chief Ebrahimi, who works in the district police office next door to the blast site. “People had gathered in the front of the department to get identification cards.”

He said the explosion occurred in the district center on a day when people gather to shop.

“They become the target of the terror today,” he said.

Violence has been on the rise in the north, where there are known hide-outs for the Taliban, al Qaeda and fighters from other militant factions, including the Haqqani network, Hizb-i-Islami and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. NATO has sent more troops to the north and has been pushing harder into militant-held areas.

In October, a bomb killed Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar and 19 others in a crowded mosque in neighboring Takhar province. Omar was killed just days after he warned of escalating threats from Taliban and foreign fighters in the north.

Separately, the NATO coalition said it was investigating the accidental death of Afghan civilians in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. NATO said it deeply regretted the accident Sunday night in Khogyani district.

Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, said coalition forces fired at three insurgents planting a roadside mine near a NATO base. One weapon missed the target, hit a house, and killed a couple and their four children, he said.

“My four grandsons, my daughter-in-law and my son were martyred here,” Mehrab Khan, 55, said at their funeral Monday.

The incident came a day after Afghan officials alleged that 64 civilians died in coalition operations in neighboring Kunar province, a hotbed of the insurgency.

NATO said it had no evidence of civilian casualties, but the coalition is working with Afghan officials to investigate recent operations in Kunar.

“The evidence viewed to date has revealed no evidence of children present at all on the night of the Feb. 17, and the adults were assessed to be men,” Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, a NATO spokesman, told reporters in Kabul. “They were armed and moving in tactical formations.”

Also on Monday, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, chairman of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, said the recent suspension of two high-ranking election officials and government interference in last year’s parliamentary election was “completely illegal.”

The comment was part of an ongoing dispute over a special tribunal, backed by President Hamid Karzai, that is investigating allegations of election fraud. While Mr. Karzai hasn’t said so publicly, it is widely believed that the president is unhappy with the slate of winning candidates and thinks fraud reduced voter turnout among his fellow ethnic Pashtuns.

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