UPDATE 1-Suicide bomber kills at least 20 at Afghanistan funeral

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Sept 4 Tue Sep 4, 2012 9:39am EDT

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JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Sept 4 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens, officials said, one of the biggest attacks on civilians in weeks.

The bomber struck in Nangarhar province near the Pakistani border when residents, along with relatives of a chief from a distant district, were gathered at a graveyard.

An interior ministry statement put the death toll at 20 for the attack in Dur Baba district and blamed the Taliban for bombing. It said the district governor, Haji Hamesha Gul, probably the target of the attack, had been wounded.

The provincial governor's spokesman said at least 25 people had died at the funeral of one of Gul's relatives.

"We have at least 25 innocent people martyred and more than 30 others wounded," said spokesman Ahmadzia Abdulzai.

The attack was carried out days after 15 men and two women were beheaded in southern Helmand province, punishment meted out by Taliban insurgents for a mixed-sex party with music and dancing.

Despite the presence of thousands of Afghan and foreign troops fighting the Taliban-led insurgency, violence is at its worst since the Islamists were toppled by Afghan and U.S. forces in late 2001, five years after they took power.

A recent U.N. report said the Taliban were responsible for 80 percent of civilian casualties.

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