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Kabul Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 11 At Rally For Northern Governor

AFGHANISTAN -- Afghan policemen keep watch at the site of a sucide attack outside a wedding hall in Kabul, November 16, 2017
AFGHANISTAN -- Afghan policemen keep watch at the site of a sucide attack outside a wedding hall in Kabul, November 16, 2017

KABUL -- At least 11 victims have been killed in a suicide attack against a Kabul rally that was being held by supporters of Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of Afghanistan's northern Balkh Province.

Noor, an outspoken critic of President Ashraf Ghani's National Unity Government and a former factional militia leader in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, was not attending the November 16 rally at the time of the attack.

Kabul police told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that at least nine police officers and two civilians were among the victims who were killed in the suicide bombing. Police said at least seven police were injured by the blast.

The attack took place at the Naveen Palace Wedding Hall in Kabul's Khair Khana neighborhood while the rally was going on inside the building.

Afghanistan's defense ministry said the attacker wore a suicide vest and tried to enter the building but was stopped outside the entrance by security officials.

A ministry spokesman told RFE/RL the attacker detonated his explosives when police stopped him.

Noor is the chief executive of the mainly ethnic-Tajik Jamiat-e Islami party -- one of the key factions of the so-called Northern Alliance that had fought against Afghanistan's Taliban regime before it was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Noor has hinted that he may run for president in Afghanistan's 2019 elections.

In the initial months after the downfall of the Taliban regime, Noor's militia fighters clashed repeatedly in northern Afghanistan with fighters loyal to another former Northern Alliance commander, the ethnic Uzbek Abdul Rashid Dostum.

But Noor and Dostum, who is now one of two vice presidents in Afghanistan's National Unity Government, recently resolved their differences and have agreed to form a political alliance, together with Afghanistan's ethnic-Hazara Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, aimed at bolstering the number of ethnic-Tajik, ethnic-Uzbek, and Hazara officials in the central government.

Dostum's political compact with President Ghani, a Pashtun, began to unravel after Dostum was accused in December 2016 of ordering an elderly political rival to be sodomized with a Kalashnikov.

Dostum has refused to cooperate with Afghanistan's attorney general in the case and claims the allegations against him are a form of blackmail aimed at stripping him of his authority.

Dostum fled to Turkey in May.

In July, Noor and Mohaqiq traveled to Turkey where they met with Dostum to form their new alliance, which they call the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan.

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